Sunlight Bridge replacement gets City Council’s green light

It feels like just yesterday Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stood alongside Glenwood Springs Chief of Police Terry Wilson during the Grand Avenue Bridge time capsule and dedication ceremony, marking the completion of the largest infrastructure project on the Western Slope in more than 25 years.

Now, the city will turn south. In particular, onto the 27th Street Bridge, also known as the Sunlight Bridge, which earned a not so sunny — in fact rather dismal — 42.2 percent sufficiency rating from the state.

“The bridge is not in great shape,” Glenwood Springs Assistant City Engineer Jessica Bowser said. “It does need to be replaced.”

The bridge project has been in the engineering design and planning stages for the better part of two years.

Thursday night, Glenwood Springs City Council voted in favor of putting the estimated $9,990,569 project out to bid. Over $2 million of that cost is coming from federal and state transportation dollars, and another $500,000 from a Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District (FMLD) grant.

As potential contractors have already started eyeing the work like hawks over prey, South Glenwood residents also rejoiced at the thought of the city investing a portion of their tax dollars in their neck of the woods.

“I don’t feel like they have been neglected any more than any other portion of the city,” Glenwood Springs At Large Councilwoman Shelley Kaup said. “But I do think there are certain upgrades that have been overdue down there.”

With the Grand Avenue Bridge complete, the thought of another bridge project on Glenwood’s horizon also raises traffic questions, particularly what commuters can expect congestionwise during the bridge construction.

“There [are] going to be delays because it is an active construction area, but for the most part traffic should be maintained,” Bowser explained.

“For the most part” refers mainly to one aspect of the anticipated one-year- to one-and-a-half-year-long construction timeframe.

“Over the course of a week to two weeks, they will demolish the old bridge and slide the new bridge into place,” Bowser said of the construction method of building the new bridge to the side of the existing one, and then moving it into alignment with 27th Street after the old bridge is removed.

In fact, outside of occasional night closures for the placement of girders, the current 27th Street Bridge will remain intact and open to vehicles until the new bridge is ready.

According to Bowser, bidding will last four to five weeks, and a contractor will be awarded the work, possibly at the council’s Sept. 20 meeting, that being the earliest possible date that the city can receive bid permission from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“We aren’t allowed to go out to bid until we get [FHWA] approval,” Bowser said.

The city received $1,116,132 in FHWA off-system grant funding through the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Municipal League. The city also was awarded $950,000 through a Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant, plus the FMLD funding.

Had the city delayed the project, it would have jeopardized its grant funding.

If awarded at the Sept. 20 meeting as planned, according to Bowser, the contractor then could potentially break ground on the project either sometime in late October or early November of this year, and see completion, best-case scenario, by December 2019.

“I think that [the 27th Street Bridge] is an important link in our transportation system. It links to South Glenwood, it links to the Midland Avenue corridor, and we need those local connections,” Councilwoman Kaup said.

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