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Street talk

Bob Zanella knows what it’s like to live on a street that has fallen into disrepair.The former Glenwood Springs mayor and supporter of a city street tax on this fall’s ballot lives on Virginia Road near Glenwood Springs High School. For years, it taxed his car’s suspension as he drove it.”Have you every ridden a roller coaster? It was slow motion because you couldn’t go very fast,” he said. “They were supposed to pave our street six years ago. They finally got it done this year.”He hopes voters pass a half-cent tax measure in November so other streets in town don’t take as long to get the necessary repairs.”The need is there. All they have to do is take a 20-minute drive around town,” he said of voters.A tour of the city by voters will reveal many streets that need rebuilding, and others whose lives can be prolonged with proper maintenance, the tax’s supporters say. Donegan, Polo, Riverview, Lincolnwood and Minter are among roads frequently cited as being particularly in need of attention.”It’s not really good when you’ve got grass growing in the road,” city manager Jeff Hecksel said of the conditions on some of those streets.City staff has estimated that Glenwood Springs faces $8.9 million in road reconstruction costs, and they would like to see these roads rebuilt within the next 15 years.They added in a memo to City Council earlier this year, “By properly maintaining the city’s streets, the city will be able to extend the useful life of the city’s existing streets with less investment than it would take to defer maintenance and reconstruct those same streets.”Voters are being asked to approve the 20-year increase in the sales tax for street maintenance and repairs, a traffic efficiencies program targeting traffic-calming measures such as bike lanes and roundabouts, and payment on existing transportation-related debt.An existing, 0.25 percent transportation tax will expire at the end of this year, and provides almost all of the funding for maintaining and reconstructing city streets.Voters narrowly rejected a 0.5-percent tax proposal last fall, even as they approved a measure that would have let the city issue bonds to borrow against the income of the tax had it been approved.Last fall’s measure would have preserved funding for street maintenance, but also helped fund a south bridge over the Roaring Fork River, paid for an Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue from downtown, and funded an environmental impact statement studying the possible relocation of Highway 82.The Eighth Street connection, for which voters approved bonding last year, could be a top priority if the tax passes. City officials see directly connecting Eighth and Midland as essential to improving access between downtown and the Glenwood Meadows commercial development, which is now beginning to open.An EIS on a Highway 82 relocation now isn’t expected to be needed for five to 10 years. Instead, the Colorado Department of Transportation is suggesting a much cheaper corridor optimization study as a precursor to an EIS. City officials say existing, unappropriated funds can be used to pay the $125,000 cost of that study.Meanwhile, a federal transportation bill this summer included $6.2 million for a south bridge project, which would extend Midland south and over the Roaring Fork River. The project’s total cost could be $12 million or more. But Mayor Larry Emery says the chief purpose of this fall’s tax proposal is for street maintenance and repair, not new roads. Also, the route for extending Midland still has to be decided, and the decision-making process could renew debate about possibly closing the city’s airport in that part of town.Zanella said the city’s tight finances in recent years have made it hard to keep up on street projects. In the meantime, construction costs have continued to escalate. He said he’s lived on Virginia Road for 40 years, and until this year, no work was done on it, “other than digging it up.”Over the years, trenches were dug in the road for purposes such as utility projects.”They were patched temporarily because they knew they were going to replace the street. That’s the way it stayed for about six years,” he said.A similar situation now exists on Donegan, a heavily traveled street in West Glenwood.”Look at … how many times that’s been chopped up and patched. It’s a mess,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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