Build the bridge and pass the turkey |

Build the bridge and pass the turkey

Traffic turns onto the Grand Avenue bridge heading south.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

As I sat at last week’s Grand Avenue Bridge hearing, Frank Capra’s holiday favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life” entered my mind. One after another, citizens spoke passionately, mostly against the new bridge. There was a strong sense of community, which is one of the many reasons I love living and working here.

I watched CDOT’s regional engineer Joe Elsen take a verbal beating. This man has put in hours upon hours to try to do the right thing for his community, and this group clearly sent him a message that, in essence, his work would destroy this town. Imagine what must have been going through his mind. I admire his calm under fire. Can you imagine how you would feel if 20-some people stood up publicly to tell you that all of your work over the last three years was an awful mistake?

The citizens at the hearing had all kinds of better ideas. One suggested that if they could build a tunnel under the English Channel, we certainly could do that for Glenwood Springs. An idea was floated to begin a tunnel around the town starting at No Name. If a new bridge is going to cost $100 million, what do you think it would cost to build that tunnel through the mountains and also make the necessary safety repairs to the current bridge?

Another suggested tunnel idea was go under Grand Avenue. One of the citizen concerns was the disruption the new bridge would cause for businesses and motorists. Do you think this proposal would be better or worse?

A bypass along the river corridor was also suggested. For the record, as much as I love the tranquility of the Rio Grande Trail, I’d probably reluctantly support that effort. But again, what will be the cost both financial and in quality of life? Under any scenario, the Grand Avenue bridge will need to be repaired. This alternative would surely create equal if not more dissention among residents who value the trail more than they value the idea of relieving traffic congestion on Grand.

Forty years ago the business community shot down the idea of a bypass, with opponents concerned about the financial damage if streams of cars weren’t coming down Grand Avenue. Isn’t ironic that some of today’s business owners are in favor of the plan that was rejected when it could have been completed with far greater ease?

Still others discussed the beauty of the current bridge and their desire to make necessary repairs. I can buy that argument, although I do not see the potential benefits of that approach.

People were concerned that the new bridge will add traffic and ease speeding on Grand. As the PI reported Monday, the traffic will continue to increase, new bridge or not. I have faith in Police Chief Terry Wilson’s ability to deal with speeders.

Last Sunday night, “60 Minutes” did a piece on the dire straits of our country’s aging bridges. The story said 70,000 bridges across the United States are in need of repair or replacement and our government just doesn’t have the money to take action.

Here in our back yard, our bridge is counted as one of those 70,000. Unlike most of the country, our local and state government is ready to take action. I wonder why Colorado would throw $100 million at this project, knowingly willing to destroy Glenwood Springs when money is so tight.

Glenwood Springs is between a rock and a hard place. A bypass would do wonders for our downtown and regional traffic issues. Unfortunately there isn’t the money.

We are told that the current bridge has another 10 good years. In recent years, the country has seen a few deadly bridge collapses. They weren’t expected. Are we willing to reject the funding and take that risk?

Despite the hate mail I expect to receive, I still believe we should carefully review the plans and move forward with the new bridge. Overall plans will add enhancements if Sixth Street is developed as a pedestrian-friendly shopping area and the expanded area under the bridge becomes a new amenity.

Or, if we can come up with a billion dollars, give or take, let’s go for the bypass and pass the turkey while you are at it. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.

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