Glenwood Springs set to issue bonds for Eighth Street connection
Eventual completion of a permanent Eighth Street connection between downtown Glenwood Springs and Midland Avenue took another step beyond concept last week.
City Council, at its Nov. 19 meeting, agreed to have the city take on $3.1 million worth of previously approved debt to help pay for what’s now estimated to be a $5.8 million project.
The bond issue itself was approved by city voters in a 2004 election, authorizing up to $22.2 million for “one or more” long-range transportation projects.
Those included planning, property acquisition, design and construction for the relocation of Highway 82 off of Grand Avenue, the South Bridge project creating a new connection to Highway 82 south of Glenwood from neighborhoods west of the Roaring Fork River, and the Eighth Street connection.
At the time of the initial election, the bond issue passed but the tax increase to support it failed. Not until a dedicated sales and use tax hike for streets construction and maintenance was approved by voters a year later was the city able to act on its bonding authority.
For a variety of reasons, though, including escalating project costs and a lack of consensus among city officials and citizens about how to proceed on the more contentious of those projects, bonds have never been issued.
Planning and some engineering work, including a required environmental assessment, has continued for the estimated $43 million South Bridge, though that project is nowhere near being fully funded.
Some property acquisition has also occurred that could someday accommodate a Highway 82 bypass along the Roaring Fork River corridor, should consensus on an alignment ever be reached. That project, too, with some estimates exceeding half a billion dollars, is not imminent.
The Eighth Street project, however, does have support and for better than a decade has been at the top of the city’s priority list.
“There have been numerous attempts to try to get the Eighth Street project done, but I think this effort will be successful,” City Manager Jeff Hecksel said this week.
That’s largely because the city, in its negotiations related to the planned Grand Avenue Bridge replacement that’s scheduled to start in January, was able to convince Colorado Department of Transportation officials to use the Eighth Street alignment as part of what will be a three-month Highway 82 detour route come late 2017.
Originally, CDOT had planned to take the detour along Midland Avenue, starting on the west end from Interstate 70 Exit 114 to the 27th Street roundabout and back to Highway 82 on the south end of town.
Instead, detour traffic will now come across the Seventh/Eighth Street bridge to a newly cut road beneath the railroad side tracks, or “wye” area, connecting to the point where Eighth Street now ends just west of City Hall.
CDOT’s detour route will involve a temporary paved surface, as well as temporary removal of the infrequently-used side tracks. The city eventually wants a fully engineered street connection with curb and gutter and a new railroad underpass, since the detour agreement now calls for the tracks to be replaced.
The city remains in negotiations with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which owns the “wye” section as part of the former Rio Grande line, and the Union Pacific, which retains rights to use the existing tracks.
“I do believe the city will be able to do what it needs to do to extend Eighth Street,” Hecksel said. However, those negotiations are ongoing.
The city also explored optional alignments that could involve an at-grade crossing or possibly an overpass. But at estimated costs exceeding $12 million, the city settled on the same straight, cut-out alignment being used for the bridge detour.
In all likelihood, the city will not proceed with the street project until after the new Grand Avenue Bridge is built and the detour period is concluded, Hecksel said.
City Council last week also gave direction for some money to be budgeted next year to begin engineering work on two other possible street connections involving bridges that are part of the city’s newly revised Long-Range Transportation Plan. One would be at or near 14th Street across the Roaring Fork River to Midland Avenue. The other would be an extension of Devereux Road over the Union Pacific main line to Midland Avenue near the Glenwood Community Center.
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