South Bridge project’s future still unknown
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Thursday’s decision from Glenwood City Council to not move forward on the South Bridge environmental assessment may have spelled the end to the controversial project. But there could still be a light at the end of the bridge, so to speak.
Most city councilors say that some good can still come out of the work that has already been done. And while some think that starting over is the way to go, others think that moving forward is still the best option.
“Council has not had a chance to talk about where we want to go next with it, yet,” said Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen. “I would hope that what we would do is step back and look at the original intent of the [federal] earmark and see if there is a practical solution we can come to with that intent.”
The South Bridge project was originally created to provide a critical second southern route connecting Highway 82 and the western side of the Roaring Fork River with the South Glenwood Springs neighborhoods. The original need and purpose of the project was stated to be for an emergency evacuation and emergency service access, and local land use access.
But it was that limited scope that ultimately defeated the project because too many thought that the project was really a bypass for Glenwood Springs.
“Had we completed the EA [environmental assessment] process we would have gotten to the point where we found that none of the alternatives met the initial intent of the earmark,” Christensen said.
Close to two years of planning went into the project, whittling down several options to a final three that were to be included in the environmental assessment. The three options included the Cardiff Bridge alternative known as Option 5, the Under Airport alternative, and another alternative that would be to the south of the airport.
Craig Gaskill with Jacobs Engineering, the consulting group which received the $1.2 million contract for the South Bridge Project – which included the environmental assessment which is not now going to happen – said that the next step for his team will be to provide the city with a list of possible alternatives on where to proceed from this point. However, Gaskill did not mention specifics.
“What we are going to do is give the city a list of options on how to wrap up this project,” Gaskill said.
Gaskill said that the project could be stopped altogether and no work would be done, but the city could collect all the data gathered to date to use in the future. He said that there are several options remaining on how to proceed, but that determining the list of viable options may take about two or three weeks.
“It does not seem to be a pressing project in terms of doing anything right now,” Gaskill said.
The list of options for the project will also have to be passed by the Federal Highway Administration if the city intends on using the nearly $3.5 million in remaining federal funds earmarked for the project.
Councilwoman Shelley Kaup, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting, said Friday that she hopes that the other list of options will be available quickly.
“I would like to see it come back to council for another discussion,” Kaup said.
Kaup called Thursday’s decision not to move forward a “setback” but said that she is not giving up on the project.
“I feel that it’s very important to the city’s transportation system,” she said. “It’s critical for going forward into the future with the growth up Four Mile, and the southern areas.”
Matthew Steckler said that he, too, would like to revisit the discussion on where to go from this point.
“The city needs the southern access to 82,” he said. “I think we’ve all wasted an opportunity here if we can’t resurrect this thing.”
Councilor Russ Arensman, who voted to not move forward with the assessment Thursday, said that he hopes that this is not where the South Bridge Project ends.
“I would hope that this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the project, but I think we need to be honest about it if we are looking to build a bypass, let’s call it a bypass and study it as a bypass,” Arensman said.
Arensman said that starting over from scratch should also include the entire Glenwood and regional traffic plan and should still include the Colorado Department of Transportation and County Commissioners.
“I’m hoping the outcome of the vote is simply a pause to rethink, redirect and move forward in a more honest, straight forward process,” Arensman said.
Councilor Bershenyi, who voted with Arensman and Christensen against moving forward with the assessment agreed saying “It’s presented an opportunity for us to step back from this thing and take a good look at this process.”
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