Glenwood Springs to CDOT: Rethink bridge detour options
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City leaders want the Colorado Department of Transportation to take a serious look at helping the city complete the Eighth Street connection, as an alternative to using Midland Avenue as a temporary detour when the new Grand Avenue Bridge is being built.
CDOT officials said during an Aug. 1 work session with Glenwood Springs City Council that they remain committed to an accelerated construction schedule once the bridge project begins in 2015, and is hoping to limit the full closure period to two months.
During that time, a Highway 82 detour through town will be needed. While open to other ideas, project planners for now are continuing to focus on converting Midland Avenue from West Glenwood to 27th Street into a temporary detour route.
“The more I think about it, the idea of this detour route completely failing during certain times of the day is pretty scary,” Glenwood Councilman Matt Steckler said. “There is a point where it is just too much pain, and you have to recognize that.”
Of particular concern to the city would be the impacts to the section of Midland between Eighth and 27th streets, where CDOT would have to upgrade the driving surface and temporarily remove the existing speed humps and landscaped islands, and probably the 27th Street roundabout as well.
That’s one reason council is so adamant about completing the Eighth Street connection as an alternative before the Grand Avenue Bridge project gets under way, added Councilman Ted Edmonds.
The city has already committed funding to plan for and engineer the new street; a project that has been on the city’s wish list for more than a decade. It would extend Eighth Street from where it now ends west of City Hall, across or under the railroad “wye” to the existing Eighth Street Bridge, and create a new link to Midland Avenue.
Even if detour traffic could somehow be split between two routes, it might provide a more functional detour than putting all of the highway traffic on Midland, Edmonds said.
“If we send all of those trucks onto Midland, it’s just going to become a parking lot,” he said.
CDOT Program Engineer Joe Elsen said the Grand Avenue Bridge construction is being planned in a way to allow traffic to continue on the existing bridge for most of the project’s estimated two-year duration.
“There will be a high impact, but for a shorter duration,” he said of the final phase of the project when the realigned bridge would be connected to Grand Avenue.
“There are risks” to using Midland as a detour route, Elsen admitted. “Our eyes are open to other ways of doing this.”
There is a question whether CDOT’s construction mitigation funds, which would come out of the $60 million in Colorado Bridge Enterprise program dollars designated for the Grand Avenue Bridge, can be used for what would end up being a new city street.
And, because the rail-banked portion of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Rio Grande Trail corridor comes into play, there may be legal ramifications, advised Mike Vanderhoof, CDOT’s Region 3 planning and environmental manager.
“If we become responsible for that project (as part of the larger bridge project), we would have to include that in our analysis,” Vanderhoof said. “We would have to go through a somewhat rigorous process to even touch the Rio Grande Trail.”
In the long run, though, it would be a better investment, city council members said.
“Eighth Street rises to the top for me, because it represents a more direct and permanent mitigation [to the city’s traffic problems],” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said. “The city will bring considerable resources to this project, and we would like to have a partner [in CDOT].”
Councilman Dave Sturges agreed.
“This is important for this community, both long term and short term, and regionally,” Sturges said of the importance of Highway 82 and getting traffic through Glenwood Springs for communities farther up the Roaring Fork Valley as well, including Aspen.
“I’m encouraged that we have been able to clear the air to say how serious we are about this,” he added. “Let’s keep this conversation going.”
CDOT’s Grand Avenue Bridge project team has been meeting with the Glenwood Council about every two months to get its input on the planning process, leading up to an expected draft Environmental Assessment decision later this year or in January 2014.
ped bridge design preference
Also during the Aug. 1 work session discussion, council had a chance to weigh in on three potential designs for a new pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River and Interstate 70 that will be part of the larger bridge project.
The consensus was for the lower-profile design, known as Option D2. It would include a series of tower features at different points along the bridge that would mimic the roof features and architecture of the Hot Springs Pool, the Hotel Colorado and the Amtrak train station.
“I’ve said from the start that the [pedestrian] bridge needs to be a simple, but in the historic character and in scale with where it sits,” said Councilman Todd Leahy in support of the design.
It also would likely be the least expensive of the design options, CDOT officials said.
Other design options would include a much higher-profile, suspension-bridge type of feature on either end or in the middle of the pedestrian bridge.
Renderings of the different pedestrian and main bridge design options also are on regular display at City Hall.
Council was unable to reach a consensus on how best to connect the pedestrian bridge to Seventh Street south of the river and the railroad tracks. Options are either an ADA-accessible ramp, which would include a long switchback structure along Seventh Street where the existing staircase is, or a tower with two elevators.
CDOT’s public outreach representative, Tom Newland, said public input so far is about 2-to-1 in favor of the ramp. The biggest drawback is that it would take away from the view of the river in that area, he said.
But, “bikers like it, because they don’t want to have to dismount to get on an elevator,” he said.
Councilman Steckler said his primary concern with an elevator would be the cost to the city to maintain it.
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