Story poles provide visual for bridge size
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A visual exercise intended to give the public an idea of the width, height and general mass of the proposed new Grand Avenue Bridge as it comes into downtown Glenwood Springs drew a mix of reactions Thursday.
“It showed me just how absolutely hugely imposing this thing would be,” said Glenwood Springs resident Pam Szedelyi.
“I was just flabbergasted looking at this,” she said, pointing to a series of story poles erected by Colorado Department of Transportation project officials along the pedestrian plaza and wing street in the 700 block of Grand below the existing bridge.
The poles depicted the height of the proposed new bridge deck, which would be several feet higher and land closer to the Eighth Street intersection compared to the existing structure.
The higher bridge would allow for a potential pedestrian walkway beneath the bridge that would be aligned with the alleyway between Seventh and Eighth Streets, said CDOT project official Tom Newland, who led the session.
Black, yellow, pink and green vertical poles showed four different bridge widths ranging from about 5 to 10 feet removed from the existing structure, depending on which bridge design is selected.
“This gives people a much clearer picture of what this would look like,” said Tom Fleming, program manager for the Glenwood Springs Downtown Partnership, who indicated he is still in the learning mode and has not made up his mind about the new bridge.
“It’s hard to anticipate and react to outcomes that may or may not even happen,” Fleming said. “My biggest concern is for the economy of the downtown, and the well-being of the businesses here.”
Szedelyi, like many other of the 60 or so people who stopped by for the two separate midday sessions, opposes the new bridge project.
She, along with other members of the recently formed opposition group Citizens to Save Grand Avenue, favor building a Highway 82 bypass that would take highway traffic off of Grand Avenue and out of downtown, and possibly refurbishing the existing bridge to serve as a city street.
Asked for a show of hands by John Haines, chairman of the Save Grand group, about three-quarters of those who attended the second session indicated they were opposed to the project.
The same question at the late morning session produced a similar split, he said.
But the next largest show of hands came from those who said they still need more information before deciding if the new, wider bridge can be done in a way to minimize the impact on downtown.
Glenwood Springs City Council members also had a chance to view the story poles during a midday work session, prior to council’s regular meeting Thursday night when another major transportation related issue, the Highway 82 Access Control Plan, was on the agenda.
Members of the Save Grand group were rallying the public to attend the meeting and speak out on the access plan, as well as the bridge project. (See a future issue of the Post Independent for a report on the regular council meeting).
City Council has shown unanimous support for replacing the Grand Avenue bridge with a new structure that would address the structural and design deficiencies of the existing bridge.
The project is in line to receive $59 million in Colorado Bridge Enterprise dollars, which are designated for the replacement or repair of deficient bridges in the state.
The 60-year-old Grand Avenue bridge has been on the state’s list of functionally obsolete bridges for several years, because it is too narrow by modern design standards to carry four lanes of highway traffic.
A preferred bridge alignment identified by CDOT planners would take the span from Grand and curving west to a newly designed intersection at Sixth and Laurel near Interstate 70. The project is now entering a nearly two-year-long environmental assessment and design process, before construction would begin in 2015.
City leaders and CDOT officials have also remained open to studying a future bypass option, in addition to the bridge replacement.
Fleming said the downtown business group also supports a new bypass planning effort. Such an effort would build on similar studies in the past and would likely focus on the Roaring Fork River corridor as a potential route.
“We do hope that this [bridge] project serves to inspire the City Council and others in the community to get behind a bypass, and what that would look like,” Fleming said.
Others want to stop the bridge project now and redirect the focus to a bypass, especially after seeing for themselves how a new bridge would look in the downtown area.
“We want to know what we have to do to put a stop to this now, so we can step back and come up with a better plan, or at least a better bridge design,” said Sheila Markowitz, who attended Thursday’s street sessions.
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A report released this month by the Center for Colorado River Studies says that in order to sustainably manage the river in the face of climate change, officials need alternative management paradigms and a different way of thinking compared with the status quo. Estimates about how much water the Upper Colorado River Basin states will use in the future are a problem that needs rethinking, according to the white paper.