More on the Great Highway 82 debate
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The release of a draft report of the “State Highway 82 Corridor Optimization Study,” being prepared jointly by the Colorado Department of Transportation, Garfield County and the city of Glenwood Springs; and the public presentation at the community center a couple months ago, have once again created a storm of public comment. So I might as well add my thoughts to the maelstrom.
The draft report contains 22 alternatives. The first six can be classified as “mini-solutions,” tinkering with traffic signals or intersection turning patterns along Grand Avenue, or a new I-70 interchange at Devereux Road. None of these proposals would do anything to reduce the traffic on Grand Avenue, and are therefore totally inadequate to cope with projected future traffic volumes.
A couple of other alternative are also questionable. One would divert Grand Avenue traffic to Colorado Avenue (one-way south) and Cooper Avenue (one-way north). The other adopts the long-proposed South Bridge connection from Midland Avenue to Highway 82 without any improvement of Midland Avenue.
Three other alternatives also involve Midland Avenue. For Midland Avenue to be able to serve future traffic needs, it would have to be converted to a three- or four-lane highway without the fifty or more driveway entrances. This could not be accomplished without massive condemnation of Midland Avenue properties at a cost of at least $20,000,000. The Midland Avenue alternatives also have the following shortcomings when compared with the railroad corridor alternatives: They involve a two- to three-times greater length of construction; require westbound I-70 traffic to drive an extra four miles to use that route instead of Grand Avenue to get through Glenwood Springs; and would require another crossing of the Roaring Fork to divert a major amount of local commuter traffic from continuing to use Grand Avenue.
Alternative 12, tunneling along the base of Lookout Mountain, with its estimated $600 million cost, can be seriously considered only when money grows on trees.
The remaining ten alternatives all involve construction in the railroad corridor, which kindles the emotions of a vociferous opposition, who throw up a number of objections: It will pave over a pristine river valley; it will destroy a treasured bicycle/pedestrian trail; and it will divide the city. How valid are these complaints? The only area that would be paved is within the 100 foot right-of-way of the railroad, a historical transportation corridor dating back to 1887. The rest of the Roaring Fork Valley would be undisturbed, with space for a relocated bicycle/pedestrian trail. The same arguments were heard when plans were announced to construct I-70 through “pristine” Glenwood Canyon (through which both a railroad and a highway had been operating since 1887 and 1902, respectively). The environmentally-sensitive design and construction of I-70 through the canyon has won accolades worldwide, and its presence does not seem to discourage the use and enjoyment of the accompanying bicycle/pedestrian trail along the river. As for dividing the city, it is the Roaring Fork River that divides Glenwood Springs, and the use of the railroad alignment is not going to alter that fact. And isn’t the heart of the city now being divided by the volume of traffic on Grand Avenue? One consideration that should not be overlooked is that the alignment and design of whichever of these alternates is selected should be compatible with the city’s development plans for the confluence area.
In conclusion, all of this discussion and any hysteria associated with the relative merits or demerits of any and all of the most feasible alternatives is most likely little more than a tempest in a teapot, since the final selection of the “preferred alternative” will come from the mandated full-blown Environmental Impact Statement, based on a comprehensive analysis and comparison of all of the environmental, socioeconomic and cost considerations associated with both construction and operation of the most attractive alternatives.
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