Glenwood Springs, Garfield County talk next steps on South Bridge
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City officials are looking to Garfield County as potential financial partners on two bridge projects aimed at easing traffic congestion and improving safety in the South Glenwood/Four Mile area.
The city is in the process of applying for new Colorado Department of Transportation funds to help pay for the estimated $34 million South Bridge project, which is nearing the end of an extensive environmental assessment process.
City officials are also looking at ways to come up with $10 million, based on preliminary estimates, to rehabilitate and widen, or possibly replace, the 27th Street (Sunlight) Bridge. The bridge recently received a low sufficiency rating from state inspectors and now qualifies for federal bridge funding.
To what extent the 27th Street bridge is improved hinges on whether the long-debated South Bridge project goes forward.
The South Bridge EA is expected to be ready for a final round of review, including a public hearing, sometime in June, project engineers said during a joint work session between Glenwood Springs City Council and the Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday.
A final decision on the preferred bridge route is likely to be made by late summer or early fall, they said.
South Bridge has also been identified for potential federal funding, dating back to a 2005 congressional earmark. The long-envisioned southern route across the Roaring Fork is viewed as a potential evacuation route in case of a wildfire in the Four Mile area.
The project would involve a roundabout at the intersection of Midland Avenue, Four Mile Road and Airport Road, as well as improvements to Airport Road, and a new connection across the Roaring Fork River to Highway 82 south of the Holy Cross Energy building.
To qualify for the state funds, though, the city and county would likely have to come up with 20 percent of the funding, or between $3.4 million and $3.9 million each. Construction would also need to be completed by the end of 2017.
“It’s hard to turn down these one-time shots at grant monies,” said Glenwood Councilman Matt Steckler.
“To not go after those funds is doing the community a bit of a disservice,” he said in response to a suggestion by county Commissioner John Martin that the city and county save up to pay for the South Bridge project instead of taking federal and state money.
Martin reiterated his oft-stated philosophical difference with using federal dollars for local projects, which often comes with a lot of costly strings attached.
“I’d rather see us put the money in the bank and save it” until the city and county can both afford to partner up on the project, he said.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky disagreed with his fellow commissioner.
“We should have that discussion among the three of us [county commissioners], and see if we can put together that funding,” Jankovsky said. “The benefit to Glenwood Springs with this project would be large. It’s within our ability to get this done, and we should give it a shot.”
As for the 27th Street Bridge, a recent engineering analysis suggested a range of alternatives, from rehabilitating the existing structure to address functional and structural deficiencies identified by state inspectors, a three-lane bridge (with turn lane onto South Grand Avenue) and separated pedestrian bridge, or a full four-lane bridge replacement.
The latter alternative would only be needed if the South Bridge route is not built, in order to handle anticipated future traffic increases, engineers said at the Tuesday meeting.
Without South Bridge, 27th Street is projected to exceed capacity within 15 years.
downtown land deal discussed
City and county officials also took the opportunity Tuesday to discuss next steps regarding the county possibly acquiring two city-owned parcels in the 700 block of Colorado Avenue east of the courthouse building.
City voters, in the April 2 election, approved a ballot measure authorizing the city to sell or otherwise convey the two parcels near the corner of Seventh and Colorado that are now used for parking.
The county has expressed interest in acquiring the parcels to combine with county-owned property in that block for a future parking structure. City Council has supported that intention but wants some agreement from the county that a parking structure will be built before selling off the parcels.
“That was our motivation to bring it to the ballot,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said.
County Manager Andrew Gorgey said the near-term plan for the site is to expand and improve the existing surface parking in that block, and to plan for a multi-deck parking structure in the future.
Council members and commissioners agreed to schedule a follow-up meeting to hash out details of a possible property sale or land swap involving the two downtown parcels.
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