Official Grand Avenue Bridge analysis: 90-day closure, short-term business loss | PostIndependent.com

Official Grand Avenue Bridge analysis: 90-day closure, short-term business loss

Highway 82 traffic turns onto the Grand Avenue Bridge headed south earlier this year. The Colorado Department of Transporation and federal highway officials have released the formal Environmental Assessment for plans to replace the aging bridge.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

BRIDGE EA PUBLIC HEARING

When: 5-8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 19

Where: Glenwood Springs Elementary School, 915 School St.

The hearing will be held in an open house format, with a brief presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend the hearing anytime during the scheduled two hours, and study team members will be available to discuss the project and answer questions.

How to submit comments: The official public comment period will continue through Dec. 1. Comments can be submitted in writing or verbally to a court reporter during the hearing. Written comments can also be provided at any time during the official public comment period, online at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge, or addressed to Joe Elsen by mail, Colorado Department of Transportation, 202 Centennial St., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601; fax (970) 947-5133; or email Joseph.Elsen@state.co.us

Construction of a new Grand Avenue Bridge would result in short-term traffic impacts, noise and disruption to local businesses, while permanently displacing the Shell service station at the corner of Sixth and Laurel, according to the project’s formal Environmental Assessment released Friday by state and federal transportation officials.

“Replacing the bridge would require lane closures and rerouting of traffic, including a full bridge closure lasting approximately 90 days,” the report explains in relation to a planned detour from West Glenwood along Midland Avenue and a temporary Eighth Street connection.

The detour would be in place for about three months in the spring of 2017 under the latest construction schedule, while the final piece of the realigned new bridge spanning the Colorado River and Interstate 70 from Grand Avenue to the intersection of Sixth and Laurel is put into place.

“Businesses also would experience increased noise and other construction nuisances … and would likely suffer a decline in sales, despite all efforts to maintain access and minimize construction nuisances,” an executive summary of the report also states. “After construction, sales would recover over time.”

The city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County have both tentatively agreed to come up with $3 million each in local matching funds to help cover the funding shortfall.

One of the biggest long-term business impacts would be the displacement of the Shell station owned by Greg and Teresa Beightel, part of the approximately 1.4 acres that must be acquired to accommodate the realigned new bridge.

“There would be no displacement of other businesses or any residents, public facilities or non-profit organizations,” the EA explains.

Visually, the new bridge would result in a mixed bag of aesthetic impacts, according to the EA. While the bridge would partially block views of the Colorado River from the upper stories of buildings on both Sixth and Seventh streets, design elements of the new bridge are meant to soften the visual impact, the report states.

Release of the formal Grand Avenue Bridge EA by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration paves the way for a final round of public comments this month, followed by a decision after the first of the year whether to proceed with the project.

According to recent engineer estimates, the bridge replacement could eventually cost in the neighborhood of $110 million. However, an “opinion of probable cost” outlined in the EA still lists the total estimated construction cost at $60 million, plus another $25.3 million for design, right-of-way acquisition, relocation of utilities and costs associated with the formal National Environmental Policy Act process.

Public comments on the EA are being taken through Dec. 1, and a formal public hearing will take place from 5-8 p.m. Nov. 19 at Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

The executive summary and detailed EA report can be found online at CDOT’s Grand Avenue Bridge Project website [http://bit.ly/10Gc6Dm]. A hard copy of the report is also available for public viewing at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 815 Cooper Ave.

The EA report culminates a federally required process that began three years ago to study the alternatives and come up with a design for the new bridge. The process involved the federal and state transportation agencies and the city of Glenwood Springs as a cooperating agency.

It explains the current Grand Avenue Bridge was constructed in 1953 as a two-lane highway bridge, and was originally designed for a 50-year lifespan.

The now-61-year-old structure has been given a “poor” rating by state bridge inspectors, and qualified for funding under the special Colorado Bridge Enterprise program for major rehabilitation or replacement.

After three years of planning and public input, project officials have determined that the best alternative would be to replace the existing structure with a newly realigned bridge.

Through input from city officials and other local stakeholders who have been a part of the planning, the project will also include a new pedestrian bridge and a reconfigured highway interchange and intersection at Sixth and Laurel.

However, those and other design elements as well as the lengthy public planning process have pushed the project budget over the $99 million set aside in the state’s Bridge Enterprise fund for the new Glenwood bridge.

As a result, the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County have both tentatively agreed to come up with $3 million each in local matching funds to help cover the funding shortfall. CDOT officials are also seeking additional funding from other communities served by Highway 82, including Aspen and Pitkin County.

The EA reports that, without the new bridge, ongoing maintenance and minor improvements would only go so far in addressing the functional and safety concerns associated with the existing bridge.

“In addition, deterioration of the aging structure reduces the sufficiency of the bridge and increases maintenance requirement,” the study notes. “An emergency short- or long-term closure of the bridge would result in significant travel impacts for local and regional State Highway 82 users.”


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