Residents show support for South Bridge funding | PostIndependent.com

Residents show support for South Bridge funding

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Three former city mayors were among the area residents who expressed outrage Thursday at a Post Independent editorial.

The objection was aimed at the paper’s Monday editorial where the editorial board took a stand against taking $6.5 million in federal funding for a bridge that would cross the Roaring Fork River south of the city.

The funding was placed into the U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill by 3rd District U.S. Congressman Scott McInnis. The funding still must be approved by a joint committee of the House and U.S. Senate.

At Thursday’s regular City Council meeting, the ex-mayors ” Don Vanderhoof, Sam Skramstad and Bob Zanella ” said they couldn’t believe the local paper would write a piece that could jeopardize long-sought funding for the bridge.

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Post Independent managing editor Heather McGregor, who is also a member of the paper’s editorial board, said all the sources she spoke to when she wrote the original story on the bridge funding indicated that the money would come from a CDOT project that’s higher up on CDOT’s priority list than is South Bridge.

She said she stands behind the editorial board’s opinion, based on the information that she knew at the time.

The editorial board opined that it would be unfair for Glenwood Springs to skirt the Colorado Department of Transportation’s planning process by taking $6.5 million that was earmarked for an $11 million project in Lake County ” specifically, improvements on Highway 24 between Leadville and Tennessee Pass.

“Is there a stronger need for the South Bridge than for improvements to a twisty mountain road used daily by hundreds of worker bees driving from Leadville to Vail?” the editorial asked.

Ex-mayor Don Vanderhoof indicated that, yes, there is a stronger need for the South Bridge.

He said the bridge is extremely important as an evacuation route for people who live in the south side of the city and up the Three Mile and Four Mile

Road areas. He said he and McInnis saw the importance of such a bridge when the area was evacuated during the 2002 Coal Seam Fire.

“For the local newspaper to attempt to scuttle this project is unconscionable,” he said.

Glenwood Springs resident Floyd Diemoz said that while he could see the paper taking a philosophical stand against taking the money if it comes at the expense of another project, he was surprised the editorial actually ran.

Garfield County resident Mark Gould, who owns a road construction company, said he not only thinks the editorial was the wrong thing to do, but be also believes some information in the editorial was incorrect. Gould said funding wouldn’t come from a CDOT project, but rather would come from another federal funding source altogether.

“The $6.5 million would have gone to another state,” he said.

Gould read a fax from McInnis staffer Jason Reese that was received by city manager Mike Copp at 5:30 p.m. Thursday ” an hour before the council meeting ” that said the $6.5 million was secured “in addition to the significant $2.6 billion in federal highway dollars provided under that bill to CDOT and our state for priority transportation projects statewide.”

“These funds were not taken from any other transportation projects in the state nor from Colorado’s apportionment under the bill,” it added.

After reading a copy of the fax, McGregor said that contradicts information she received Monday from McInnis’ office and CDOT officials.

“This is completely different than what they’ve told us up until now,” she said.

“We’re not objecting to the South Bridge or the potential for federal funding for it. What we’re objecting to is this funding coming at the expense of a project that got a higher priority by going through the regional planning process,” McGregor said.

“If this is indeed new money, as Jason Reese claims, then it’s something that we would support,” she added.

After the mayors and others spoke their piece on the editorial and the bridge funding, City Council unanimously reaffirmed a previous resolution that sought federal funding for the bridge, and set a special meeting to take formal action on the issue.

“I think it’s important because of the jeopardy of those funds,” Councilman Bruce Christensen said, referring to council’s reaffirmation of the 2003 resolution. “I’m sure that someone else would like to get that money.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

gmasse@postindependent.com


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