Ped access under bridge still cause for consternation | PostIndependent.com

Ped access under bridge still cause for consternation

Downtown Glenwood Springs merchants want pedestrian access beneath the new Grand Avenue bridge to be clear and free by spring break and, if possible, at least some temporary public restrooms for the upcoming summer tourist season.

But those are wishes that bridge project and city of Glenwood officials aren't being too quick to grant.

The bridge project is now well into the fifth and final phase of construction, in anticipation of a final June 30 completion. Most of the construction now is super detail-oriented, including utility work, landscaping, brick work, tweaking of the traffic signal operations, and pouring lots of concrete for walking surfaces and curbs.

Much of that concrete work will be under the south end of the new bridge, where a large pedestrian plaza is eventually planned, and along the wing streets on either side of the 700 block of Grand Avenue.

What's been a construction zone for the better part of the last two years will continue to be for a few more weeks as the bridge project wraps up, explained Kathleen Wanatowicz, public information manager for the joint venture general contractor on the $126.5 million bridge project Granite/Wadsworth, at a meeting with downtown business owners on Friday.

"We are still really mobilized out there," she said. "The construction is maybe not as evident with the big cranes and everything, but we still have a lot of crews out there working."

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Of primary concern for the downtown merchants is to limit the closure time for the temporary walkway beneath the south end of the bridge, along the wing streets, and at the north crosswalk at Eighth and Grand.

"It's killing my Valentine's Day business," said John Bellio, owner of the Chocolate Moose gourmet candies shop and ice cream parlor at 710 Grand.

Several concrete pours are still planned for the wing street areas, and three separate slabs will be poured directly underneath the bridge. All will take extra cure time because of the colder winter and upcoming spring weather, Wanatowicz said.

While the under-bridge walkway could reopen by the middle of March, it's more likely to be closer to the end of the month, she said.

After that, project and city of Glenwood Springs officials can move toward reopening Seventh Street to vehicle and foot traffic, Wanatowicz said.

Even that area will be in a temporary but functional condition through the summer months, while the city finalizes a plan for a pedestrian plaza and ornate, curved street and landscape design near the Seventh Street Station elevator tower.

In order to give the downtown business owners a break from construction once the bridge project is completed, that work is not slated to begin until after Labor Day weekend, city Engineer Terri Partch said. And, at an estimated $5.5 million to do everything that the city and the Downtown Development Authority have been designing, it's likely to be completed in phases over multiple years, she said.

City Council is set to consider final designs for the Seventh Street and under-bridge plaza area at its March 1 meeting, where a decision is expected on how much of the project to bite off this year.

Short of a fully designed plaza with pavers and other features, the area will have some seating areas and other usable space during the summer months, project officials also said.

One point of contention is the likelihood that the city will not immediately replace the public restrooms that were removed to make way for the new bridge. That was not welcome news for some business owners, who said they often field questions from customers about the nearest restrooms.

"There is only so much money we can spend this year, and we've tried to make the best decisions we can with that limited money," City Manager Debra Figueroa said at the merchants meeting.

Lisa Langer, the city's tourism marketing director, offered that, instead of portable toilets, the city should look at bringing in a temporary restroom trailer facility for the summer months. City officials said they would make that suggestion to City Council.

In April, the final signal work will be done at the intersection of Eighth and Grand, Wanatowicz said, and in May the bridge will have lane closures while a seal coat is applied to the driving surface. Other work to be completed includes the north stairway from the pedestrian bridge to the Hot Springs Pool, followup pavement work at Interstate 70 Exit 116, and completion of the new eastbound on-ramp.