Grand Avenue bridge is the future of Glenwood
The Grand Avenue bridge is the final squeeze of Highway 82 traffic flow before it can either enter or leave Interstate 70. Northbound Grand traffic is backed up to 23rd Street during the evening and onto I-70 in the morning because it can’t flow over the bridge.
The entire alignment of Highway 82 from I-70 to 8th Street is dysfunctional. This 60-year-old bridge is now the key bottleneck to this most critical link for the entire Roaring Fork Valley. It desperately needs to be replaced.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has made this very expensive project a top priority in spite hard financial times. Its goal is to reduce congestion on Grand Avenue, not traffic volume. The only way to reduce traffic volume is to build a bypass. A real bypass is unlikely to happen within the next 20 years, and the funding of a bypass is not related to the bridge project in any manner.
Glenwood Spring is extremely lucky there is a viable bypass alignment. The true bypass will be built from a totally reconstructed I-70 interchange to 23rd Street along the east side of the Roaring Fork River. This is the only option. There will be no tunnels, Glenwood Canyon structures or magical means of taking Highway 82 traffic off Grand without impacting someone. As long as the city fathers keep this alignment free of development, it will be available when the time is right for our children.
What is missing is a serious discussion of the benefit that the new bridge will bring to Glenwood Springs residents, who use the bridge more than anyone else. Not only will it decrease congestion on Grand, it will improve downtown businesses and allow North Glenwood to be developed into a traffic-free commercial core.
The Grand Avenue Bridge divides the town into two sections — those who live north and those who live south of the Colorado River. Those who live south of the river may see little benefit for themselves because they only use the bridge to get to I-70. However, those who live on the north side of the river will see huge benefits from the new bridge alignment. The new Village Inn intersection design will resolve congestion problems that are now at dangerous levels for both cars and pedestrians.
Contrary to popular opinion, the new bridge will save downtown Glenwood. The retail merchants have been stable for decades on the two-block-long downtown in spite of the noise and air pollution from traffic. The restaurants in the Glenwood core continue to be the growth industry. The area under the existing bridge is already the new hot spot for development. The new bridge will create a spacious, traffic-free, covered gathering area for year-round activities.
The biggest benefit of the new Highway 82 Bridge is by far the most significant. For the first time in the history of Glenwood Springs, the area west of the Hotel Colorado can be developed into a new traffic-free commercial core. The location of the new commercial core is truly amazing. It is within a walking-friendly distance of all of the Sixth Street motels, the Glenwood Tram, the pool and the “historic” downtown restaurant district over the new pedestrian bridge.
North Glenwood Springs will see the development of restaurants, shops, offices and modern hotels capable of hosting mini-conferences. With a private/public partnership, a large parking structure can be built under the new bridge to serve the pool and other public and private activities. Tourists will be able to park their cars for their entire vacation in Glenwood Springs or make an Amtrak stopover for a few days without needing a car.
The Highway 82 bridge project is indeed critical to the future of Glenwood Springs. Everyone understands that traffic volume on Grand will continue to grow over the next 20 years. At some point, the people of Colorado will decide to build a bypass around this small town in western Colorado. By the time the bypass is built, there will an expanded Glenwood Springs core that will span the Colorado River in a pedestrian-friendly town that may be worthy of the national attention that it has already received.
Chuck Peterson is a 40-year resident of Glenwood Springs north of the river. An engineer, he has made it something of a hobby to do a semi-detailed design of a bypass.
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