It’s been a long, winding path to get to Glenwood’s South Bridge route plan

The city of Glenwood Springs, with assistance from federal and state transportation officials, is pushing forward with plans for the new South Bridge Project linking Highway 82 and Midland Avenue with a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

The latest South Bridge schematics, much like the history of the costly and complicated project, has quite a few ups and downs, literally.

The 2002 Coal Seam Fire that burned 29 homes, 12,000 acres of land, and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in West Glenwood and up the Four Mile corridor also illustrated the lack of emergency evacuation routes available to residents residing on the south side of Glenwood Springs.

For well over a decade, and with a $5 million federal earmark backing the effort, the city has worked toward building that emergency evacuation route, known as South Bridge.

After vetting dozens of options through a formal Environmental Assessment — including doing nothing at all — city engineers and consultants now have their eyes on one route in particular.

“There would be a tunnel underneath the runway and [South Bridge] would come out on a bench that is just on the east side of the airport.”— Terri Partch, Glenwood Springs city engineer

“There was a lot of public input around the alternatives and different routes that the [South Bridge Project] could take, and the analysis came down to that Option 10B,” Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch said of the “preferred alternative” that emerged from the process.

Partch outlined the project details during a presentation and public open house held Wednesday evening at Sopris Elementary School that was attended by scores of residents interested in the status of the project.

According to Partch, the South Bridge Project carries an estimated price tag of $40 million. Half of that would likely come from the city’s A&I tax that was renewed by voters in 2016.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority would also provide roughly $4 million to the project from its recent property tax that passed last November. After that election, RFTA also conceded on the design of the trail crossing and highway intersection, resulting in somewhat less cost for that part of the project.

The city will also look to Garfield County to make up some of the difference, as well as other potential grants and governmental sources.

The preferred South Bridge route would start west of the Roaring Fork River at the intersection of Midland Avenue and Four Mile Road.

From there, it would pass along an improved Airport Road, then tunnel beneath the municipal airport runway to a bridge across the Roaring Fork River before crossing the Rio Grande Trail and intersecting with state Highway 82 just south of the Holy Cross Energy headquarters.

The $12 million South Midland Project is also integral to the broader plans for the area.

That project earned a $7 million Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant from the Federal Highway Administration late last year. It calls for the construction of a roundabout where South Bridge route would subsequently extend to the south.

“There would be a tunnel underneath the runway and [South Bridge] would come out on a bench that is just on the east side of the airport,” Partch explained.

A short transition would extend from the bench to where South Bridge would cross the Roaring Fork River and land between the Jackson Ranch and the Holy Cross facility, then travel straight up that property line to state Highway 82.

“The current council feels like [South Bridge] is a top priority project,” Partch said. “And, with our calculations about where to spend bond funds and not spend bond funds, South Bridge has been a big part of that and we are holding a part of that A&I tax in reserve for the future building of this project.”

As far as a timeline for the South Bridge Project, Partch said the city hoped that at least a piece of the project may find its way into the 2020 budget.

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