Pitkin County asked to give to Glenwood Springs bridge project
The Aspen Times
The Pitkin County commissioners unanimously agreed to financially support the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project in Glenwood Springs. What they didn’t agree to was just how much money the county would contribute.
The project is at the 60 percent mark with its design, but the allotted funding doesn’t meet the current estimated construction costs.
“We’re finding that we’re a little bit off on where we projected our estimates,” said David Eller, the Region 3 transportation director for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We’ve been told pretty loud and clear that the bridge enterprise funding is limited right now, so we’re in a situation where we’re trying to keep this project on track with the preferred alternatives in place.”
CDOT made a request of $500,000 from Pitkin County to help support the construction of the new bridge, but none of the commissioners supported giving that amount to the project.
“That’s a big amount for us to swallow,” said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock. “What is probably more important than that specific amount is if the board is willing to show some level of support for the regional project. We can always come back for the amount at a future date.”
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CDOT made a construction estimate of $60 million for biddable items from contractors, but the total cost doesn’t include expenses for construction management, right of way access, design, environmental and construction fees that push the cost $10 million to $15 million over budget. The current total cost of the project is between $110 million and $115 million.
Joe Elsen, a program engineer for CDOT, led a presentation of the layout, the planning process and some current issues concerning the bridge project. He then explained the accelerated bridge construction concept, where the plan breaks down the project into three areas with as much preconstruction completed prior to demolishing the current structure.
Elsen said the new bridge will be wider, and the project also includes a new pedestrian bridge. A detour is being proposed through West Glenwood Springs during construction.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat this; it’s going to be tough,” Elsen said. “At some point, we’re going to have to really implement some traffic-demand management and get people out of their cars. Right now we’re projecting the construction will add 20 minutes wherever you want to go on Highway 82, and that’s if we can get a 20 percent reduction in traffic.”
It was suggested that the county might be able to lend financial support to the bridge project through the Elected Officials Transportation Commission funds if there was a transit component with the project.
The Elected Officials Transportation Commission is made up of Pitkin County, Aspen and the town of Snowmass Village. Each respective board then makes decisions for funding through the EOTC. The EOTC funding comes from a county use tax and sales tax. Most of the money goes to RFTA for transit services, but some of the funds are set aside for capital improvements that have to be transit related.
If there were a transit component within the bridge project, then there would be an opportunity for Pitkin County to use EOTC funds in support of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. If not, any financial support the county offers would likely come from the county general fund.
“The bottom line is the board recognizes the regional importance of that infrastructure,” Peacock said. “The Grand Avenue bridge carries 84 percent of the traffic that accesses the Roaring Fork Valley. That includes the goods and materials, as well as the people that come upvalley. The board is supportive of the infrastructure being developed. What isn’t clear is what level of support Pitkin County can provide.”
The Grand Avenue Bridge was built in 1953. An average of 25,000 vehicles a day access the bridge.
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