Open house gives peek at bridge options
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Project planners who are weighing the various alternatives for replacing or fixing the Grand Avenue Bridge aren’t leaning one way or the other for now.
But that’s about to change over the next few months, as Colorado Department of Transportation officials, engineering consultants and local stakeholders move toward identifying a preferred alternative in August.
“What we’re hoping to show here is that we have explored all of the alternatives, and that our focus remains on evaluating all of them,” Tom Newland, project spokesman for Jacobs Engineering Consultants, said at a Wednesday open house held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
The day included an afternoon meeting with about 35 “stakeholders,” a group of local business owners, residents, public officials and others who have stepped up to give their input in the planning process.
The open house itself featured a display of new, detailed drawings depicting the various alignment alternatives for the bridge.
Options range from keeping the current bridge alignment intersecting at Sixth and Pine, or using a variety of potential new alignments intersecting farther west at either Sixth and Maple or Sixth and Laurel.
Most of the realignment options would require acquisition of business properties along Sixth Street.
The project has been slated for up to $59 million in Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund money to address functional and structural deficiencies with the existing 59-year-old bridge.
The bridge is considered functionally obsolete, because it is too narrow for the four lanes of traffic it carries. The bridge clearance over the railroad tracks and Seventh Street is also substandard.
Construction options range from refurbishing the existing bridge to replacing it with a new bridge, or bridges, to carry Highway 82 traffic over Interstate 70, the Colorado River and the BNSF Railroad tracks.
A preferred alternative is to be determined by August, followed by a required federal environmental assessment and a final bridge design. Construction is not expected to begin until late 2014 or early 2015.
Several options using two bridges, or “couplets,” one carrying northbound traffic and the other carrying southbound traffic, are detailed in the new drawings.
The intersection options using couplets are the same along Sixth Street. However, they would require the use of a two-block stretch Colorado Avenue for southbound traffic, connecting back to Grand Avenue at Ninth Street.
Another couplet option takes northbound traffic off Grand Avenue at Ninth to Cooper and across a new one-way bridge that would climb over Seventh Street and across the river and I-70.
That would leave a two-block section of the main downtown area on Grand Avenue without any highway traffic.
Glenwood Springs City Councilman Todd Leahy, who was at the open house, said he has not heard a lot of positive comments about the couplet options.
“It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of support for that from the comments I’ve heard,” he said.
Leahy said he, too, is not so sure about taking any Highway 82 traffic off of Grand Avenue.
“You’re just moving the traffic and spreading it out, instead of what you have now on Grand,” he said. “It’s an interesting idea, and it’s great to be able to show that option. But I personally am still in favor of sticking with the existing alignment.”
The open house did turn out its share of Highway 82 bypass proponents who believe the bridge project ultimately ignores Glenwood Springs’ traffic congestion problems.
Longtime local businessman John Haines said he would still rather see highway traffic rerouted directly from the main I-70 interchange, across a new bridge and along the Roaring Fork River corridor away from downtown.
“That way you take all that truck traffic out of downtown, and make that area more of a destination stop,” Haines said.
Glenwood Springs native Jeff Peterson, an engineer himself, agreed.
“The river corridor just makes more sense to me,” he said. “That way you eliminate the majority of traffic going down Grand Avenue, and it gets people through town who aren’t interested in stopping here.”
The current Grand Avenue Bridge project does not contemplate a bridge connecting to a bypass, because it would fall outside the intended use of the Bridge Enterprise Fund dollars, project officials have said. Such an option would also require extensive re-engineering of the I-70 interchange (Exit 116), they said.
The latest drawings and other updated information about the Grand Avenue Bridge project can be found online at http://www.sh82grandavenuebridge.com.
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