Guest opinion: Blame 40 years of councils for no bypass
I thank Cheryl Brandon for her letter to the editor of March 1 expressing the concern she and many others have due to the overwhelming traffic that affects those traveling through our community. The major harm, however, is to all of Glenwood’s citizens, from children to the elderly, who must every day cross our main street. Grand Avenue is not a street or avenue — it is one of Colorado’s major highways.
I do not place the blame of our inability to finalize a bypass on the Colorado Department of Transportation as too many citizens do. The majority of blame is owned by the lack of leadership from Glenwood’s City Councils. Every council going back 40 years never developed a quorum to put this issue to bed. Sadly, individual council members who were serious in solving this problem were always in the minority.
In 1973, Dick Prosence, engineer for The Colorado Department of Highways (CDH), gave this message to council: “It is your responsibility to decide on a final corridor. We’ll help with studies, but you and the community must decide.”
With the encouragement of Glenwood City Manager Roy Rainey, Council on Dec. 6, 1973, officially designated Midland Avenue as the route for a possible bypass for State Highway 82. That was 42 years ago.
It didn’t take subsequent councils any time to abandon the protection of Midland by approving full residential development on the corridor. Prosence’s message to council, however, has been repeated for decades. Few know that CDOT loaned the city money at a low interest rate to purchase the large strip of land on the east bank of the Roaring Fork River, extending from the high school to 23rd Street, and contributed to the cost of our many studies.
Previously, in 1972 or 1973, I recommended that Council:
1. Decide on the corridor.
2. Get on CDH’s 20-year plan.
3. Confirm the alignment within the corridor.
4. Contribute funds for preliminary design to let CDH know we’re serious.
This recommendation was repeated over the many years, receiving negative reaction from many, “This is not our problem, it is the state’s problem … and … we don’t have a problem.”
Seventeen years ago a serious proposal was recommended to our community. Council should contribute in the range of $1 million toward the final determination and preliminary design of the bypass location to once and for all show CDOT the city means business. This proposal never called for the city to pay for the construction of a bypass, nor that we should be placed first on the state’s 20-year plan. Just get on the plan.
This proposal and its proponents were held in contempt. Following are some of the comments:
1. Glenwood Springs shouldn’t take on the burden on itself to upgrade a state highway. (Council member)
2. A bypass will take years to address and should not require significant city financial contributions. (Council member)
3. The bypass should be paid for by the state. (Council member)
4. I don’t believe another study (even a $1 million one) will solve our problem. (Council member)
5. The city has spent and is spending sufficient amounts on transportation, including $150,000 for a preliminary bypass study. (City engineer)
6. The city’s preliminary engineering bypass study is not a “pissant study” nor does the city need to waste $1 million on additional studies. (Council member)
7. To say Glenwood Springs should pay $50 to $80 million for a state highway bypass is ludicrous. (Council member)
8. It’s the state’s responsibility. We’re already paying gas taxes for highway construction. Why in the world should we pay any more? (Citizen)
9. As for traffic congestion, build a toll road. Let those who are using it the most pay for it. (Citizen)
10. It’s more of a state than a city problem. (Glenwood Post)
After the collection of 13 or 14 bypass studies over the past 40 years, we’re still on auto-pilot with no one at the controls. Our opportunity to finalize a bypass has been foreclosed by land-use decisions, as well as Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s absolute indifference to our problem. The cost of the few remaining solutions are well beyond Colorado’s ability to fund. I see no way to avoid the insurmountable roadblock ahead. For that reason I now approve of the bridge replacement.
Floyd Diemoz is a Glenwood Springs native who in 2004 was named citizen of the year by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. He is credited with being instrumental in formation of a citizens committee that advised the Colorado Department of Transportation on how to build Interstate 70 in the Glenwood Canyon in an ecologically and aesthetically sensitive way.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.