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Glenwood Springs not ready to OK latest bridge design

Christopher Mullen Post Independent Traffic travels over the Grand Avenue Bridge, September 5.
Christopher Mullen |

The final level of preliminary design before the Grand Avenue Bridge project is ready for construction contracting still lacks some fine details before Glenwood Springs City Council is ready to endorse the plans.

Council, during a special meeting Wednesday morning, went over the so-called “90 percent design” plans for the state Highway 82/Grand Avenue bridge replacement.

Though about 90 percent assured themselves that the many design elements requested will be included in the final bridge design, council still wants the Colorado Department of Transportation to spell out a few things more clearly before it is ready to move forward.

“It looks like a lot these things are being addressed, they’re just not on the plans yet,” Councilman Todd Leahy observed following a presentation of the latest designs by City Engineer Terri Partch.

Partch attended a day-long meeting with CDOT’s bridge design team Tuesday in Denver.

She noted that some of the aesthetic details in particular that the city has asked for, related to such things as the planned new pedestrian bridge and color schemes on bridge abutments and retaining walls, are missing from the current set of design plans.

As well, some of the city’s requests regarding local traffic-flow aspects of the planned 90-day detour route that will be in effect toward the tail end of the project need to be included, council agreed.

Still, the 90 percent design submittal is a “very significant development milestone in moving the project forward,” Grand Avenue Bridge Project Manager Roland Wagner said.

“We are down to finalizing some remaining design details with various stakeholders, such as the city and utility companies, and over the next six weeks the design engineering team will be finalizing and completing the plan and specification packages,” said Wagner, who was still in Denver Wednesday working on those very details.

The planned detour and how to deal with both highway and in-city traffic as efficiently as possible during that time is a major concern for Glenwood officials.

The detour is expected to be in place from late August 2017 through November of that year and will allow construction of the final segment of the new bridge.

The bridge is to follow a new alignment from the current Grand Avenue landing point, sweeping west over Seventh Street, the railroad tracks, Colorado River and Interstate 70 to a reconfigured intersection at Sixth and Laurel and the I-70 interchange.

Most of the two-year-long construction will allow for the existing bridge to remain functional, except for the 90-day period in 2017.

At that time, Highway 82 traffic is to follow Midland Avenue from West Glenwood to a temporary extension of Eighth Street into downtown.

From Eighth Street, eastbound traffic is to turn onto Colorado Avenue and Ninth to get back onto Grand Avenue. Westbound traffic will follow Grand from the south end of town to Eighth Street and onto the detour route out to West Glenwood.

During its review of the plans, council members discussed ways to make sure local traffic trying to access neighborhoods west of Grand Avenue along Colorado and Pitkin is not too inconvenienced.

Partch said she did advise bridge planners that the 900 block of Colorado, which is now one-way, will be made a two-way street during the detour.

The plan should also accommodate school buses trying to get to and from Glenwood Springs Elementary and Middle schools, councilors expressed.

Complicating matters is the possibility that construction could be underway on the proposed new Glenwood Elementary School building at the same time the bridge is being built. The Roaring Fork School District expects to go to voters this fall seeking funding to move that project forward.

Aside from the bridge itself, another concern involving the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool has to do with the placement of a proposed retaining wall that would separate the upper and lower benches of the existing bridge right of way at Sixth and Pine.

The city last week inked an agreement with the pool splitting ownership of the right of way between the two entities, with the city getting the upper section and the pool taking ownership of the lower bench where its parking lot is located.

Partch said pool representatives have expressed concerns about city plans to eventually develop a pedestrian park area along that section of Sixth.

But that’s something the city should be able to work out with the pool to ensure it has a say in the design process for that area, City Manager Jeff Hecksel said.

Another city concern regarding the bridge plans involves making sure there is adequate signage pointing motorists coming off of I-70 to various parts of town and key businesses.

Council postponed formal action on the bridge design until its Sept. 3 meeting. It will also deal with a series of agreements with CDOT related to the bridge project at that time.

Wagner said that, once the city’s review and other project “hurdles” are cleared, CDOT should be able to begin negotiating a construction contract price with its construction manager.

All totaled, including the three-year bridge planning effort and environmental review process, the bridge project is estimated to come in at between $110 million and $115 million.

Once a construction price is agreed to, CDOT should have a construction contract by December, and the first construction phase of the project would commence in early January 2016, Wagner said.


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