Not the end of the road for 8th St. project
A more direct connection between downtown Glenwood Spring and Midland Avenue could be just a few years away, after City Council Thursday night decided to proceed with an extension of Eighth Street.Council voted 5-2 in favor of going forward with the $4 million undertaking, with the majority deciding it would help rather than hurt downtown. Their decision also came in spite of concern that the project might interfere with the possible relocation of Highway 82 onto the railroad corridor.Extending Eighth Street to the existing bridge over the Roaring Fork River, now reached by Seventh Street, would provide a more direct connection between downtown and the Glenwood Meadows area via Midland Avenue.Four former mayors – Sam Skramstad, Don Vanderhoof, Bob Zanella and Larry Emery – all showed up at Thursday’s council meeting to support the project. Skramstad said its construction was anticipated in numerous discussions in the past 20 years, in connection with everything from building the new Garfield County Jail downtown to developing Glenwood Meadows to reclaiming the downtown area.”The whole idea was to improve traffic flow and any time you do that you’re going to enhance that (downtown) area,” Skramstad said.But some Glenwood residents fear the project could interfere with a possible relocation of Highway 82, and urged that the city at least wait until a corridor optimization study for Highway 82 is completed this year before doing the Eighth Street work.”If we do something that interferes with the bypass we’ll have wasted the money,” Chuck Peterson told council.Council member Chris McGovern said the Colorado Department of Transportation now is saying a relocation of 82 could happen as soon as 7 1/2 years from now. She thinks it would be a mistake to do the Eighth Street work as long as Grand Avenue is the main route through town.”I would like to see it completed as part of a larger package,” she said, referring to the possible moving of 82. For now, extending Eighth Street will only draw more commuter traffic into the downtown area, to its detriment, she said.Council member Dave Johnson joined McGovern in voting against proceeding with the work, noting, among other things, the possible impacts more traffic would bring to residents of Pitkin and Colorado avenues.”I think there’s still too many questions in my mind to be answered,” he said.Doug Harr, who has long been involved in downtown issues, told council that extending Eighth Street is vital to downtown’s future. “We can save downtown Glenwood and if we don’t act fast it won’t happen,” he said.The city’s downtown plan calls for building the extension.”Without building Eighth Street we don’t have a downtown plan. It just won’t work,” said Joe O’Donnell, perhaps the most fervent advocate of the Eighth Street project on council.The project also is part of a larger plan to redevelop the confluence area where the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers meet.O’Donnell noted that the project has not only been planned by city leaders, but approved by city voters. In 2004 they agreed to let the city borrow money for it, and this fall they passed a street tax that proponents had said could be used partly for it.Mayor Bruce Christensen said the city has the responsibility to design the project with the possible Highway 82 relocation in mind. Council member Larry Beckwith said he doesn’t expect a conflict between the two because the extension is planned to go under the railroad tracks, whereas the bypass could be built on the railroad right of way.In Thursday’s decision, council also called on the city to resume discussions with Union Pacific about possible options for reconfiguring the railroad wye at the confluence, to better accommodate the extension. Council also plans to incorporate streetscaping, pedestrian features and traffic-calming designs on Eighth as part of the project.The city has estimated that the project could be completed by the late summer of 2007.
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