Technical, citizens groups come up with five options for Glenwood Springs south bridge |

Technical, citizens groups come up with five options for Glenwood Springs south bridge

Pete Fowler
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Submitted Graphics

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” City and county officials will soon face tough decisions about whether the Glenwood Springs Airport should stay open and where a new bridge over the Roaring Fork River should go in south Glenwood Springs.

After meeting separately since January, a citizens advisory group and a more technical project working group recommended five options for the south bridge project. The citizens group did not meet its goal of recommending just one option, and a not-in-my-backyard attitude permeated its discussions.

“There was a lot of that,” said Tom Newland, a consultant hired to facilitate the discussions and oversee public involvement. “The CAG (citizens advisory group) was primarily people directly impacted by one or another alternative, so it was really hard to come to a consensus on what was the best alternative because the people had too much at stake.”

But he added that the group worked hard and eventually was able to move toward the middle ground.

City Councilor Russ Arensman said, “It’s all about that (not-in-my-backyard attitude) to a certain degree, and rightly so. I think people have every right to express some concern before thousands of additional car trips come by their driveway.”

One option the citizens group recommended is being called the “new Cardiff bridge.” It would go from Midland Avenue over the river just south of the old and unused Cardiff Bridge. It would hit South Glen Avenue and a new connection would be built to Highway 82 farther south near the Rosebud Cemetery. It could cost about $13.1 million, according to planning documents from Jacobs Engineering.

Jacobs has a $1.9 million contract with the city and county for work on the south bridge project, Newland said.

The second option the citizens group recommended ” the “airport north crossing” ” would go from Airport Road through the north part of the airport and under the airport runway. It would go over the river and between Buffalo Valley and the Mountain View Church to hit Highway 82 for a cost of almost $20 million.

The third “around airport” option the citizens group picked would start on Airport Road and loop around the south side of the airport before crossing the river. It would then go between Holy Cross Energy facilities and the Carter Jackson Ranch, hitting Highway 82 near Red Canyon for a cost of $18 million. Some parts of the road near the airport would have to be lowered with a cut and cover tunnel to avoid runway approach and clear zones.

The citizens group also recommends that “traffic calming” measures go into the project design and that Dry Park Road and Prehm Ranch Road be improved to serve as alternative routes for emergency evacuation of the south Glenwood Springs and Four Mile Road areas.

The project working group includes representatives of city and county government, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. They picked two options that would go through the southern part of the municipal airport, cross between Holy Cross facilities and the Carter Jackson Ranch and hit Highway 82 near Red Canyon. The group neglected to pick between one option that would allow the airport to remain open by going under an airport runway for $19.1 million, and the other option that would close down the airport for $16.8 million.

“It’s a pretty politically charged issue that needs to be resolved, and I guess maybe the south bridge process brought it up once again,” Newland said. “The PWG (project working group) felt that was really the realm of elected officials.”

Newland said the technical group felt the new Cardiff Bridge option didn’t meet the project’s purpose as well as other options, the airport north option had higher impacts to adjacent properties, and the around airport option was likely to cause cut-through traffic to neighborhoods north and west of the airport. The group picked its airport south option, he added, because it best met the project’s purpose, minimized impacts to nearby properties, aligned efficiently for routing traffic and seemed to be the best chance at a safe and effective connection to Highway 82.

Newland said the technical group accepted almost all of the recommendations from the citizens group ” except the final recommendations ” during the process of weeding out most of the 26 original bridge options.

A public meeting will be announced for Oct. 22 to present recommendations and gather public input. Then the five recommendations plus public input will go to the City Council, Garfield County commissioners and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Newland said, but the Federal Highway Administration will ultimately pick one of the options to carry forward through an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which could take another 18 months.

“They’re the ones that have to make the selection, but they do it with all this input,” Newland said, adding that public officials’ input is likely to be weighted heavily.

After the NEPA process is complete, local governments will have to decide how to fund the bulk of the project.

The idea of a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River in south Glenwood Springs has been around since at least 1996. A study then and a follow-up study in 2002 suggested the best location for the bridge is through or just north or south of the municipal airport. The two groups discussing it this year for the most part reached the same conclusion.

The Coal Seam Fire in 2002 raised concerns about limited emergency access to and from the south Glenwood Springs and Four Mile Road areas. That resulted in a request to Congress and a $5.2 million earmark on a federal transportation bill to go toward the south bridge project.

Some worried the project would increase traffic on Midland Avenue or in other neighborhoods without doing much to ease traffic in Glenwood Springs. Critics also thought the project’s focus was too narrow. Its goal was to focus only on improving local access and emergency access to the area south of Glenwood Springs and west of the Roaring Fork River. The citizens group was instructed to try to ignore regional Grand Avenue traffic and the possibility of a Highway 82 alternative, which has its own ongoing study.

Chris Janusz, a retired builder who participated in the citizens group, bemoaned the amount of time and bureaucracy involved and said much of the process seems like a waste of taxpayer money. He said many of the original 26 south bridge options seemed “insane” and would unnecessarily hurt homes or businesses.

Newland said only one option, which is no longer on the table, would have required two homes to be demolished, although any new road could bring new traffic by homes or businesses.

“Chris is a good guy,” Newland said. “He’s a real get-things-done kind of guy, but in a process like this you can’t get things done for quite awhile.”

Janusz, an airport supporter, believes that the best option would be farther south from the Holy Cross facility on a part of the Carter Jackson Ranch that is not a conservation easement. He said the road going west from the bridge could also go farther south of the airport, in a storage yard for telephone poles.

Janusz and neighbor Richard Backe ” a pilot and a builder ” believe that location would be the most efficient and would have the least impact to surrounding properties. Both live across from Buffalo Valley near the new traffic signal ” where one of the recommendations would connect with Highway 82. Janusz said with his recommendation, the rodeo grounds and the airport could be saved for anything the community wants to do with in the future.

Sandy Jackson, daughter of Carter Jackson, said the family didn’t want to comment on south bridge recommendations. But Martha Cochran, executive director of Aspen Valley Land Trust, which oversees the ranch’s easement, said of the part Janusz described, “Just because it’s not an easement doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some values that aren’t worth protecting.”

Newland said Janusz’s suggestion could be considered during the environmental assessment, but only if it’s determined to lessen impacts to the environment or adjacent properties.

Janusz also said the not-in-my-backyard crowd was “voracious” during the citizens group discussions.

“My heart and soul goes out to making our community better,” he said. “That some people need to be affected by it is sad but true, but to make other people lose their homes or businesses so that their life is not affected is dishonorable, disingenuous and disgusting. It’s time now not to destroy public assets but to improve public safety.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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