The Grand Avenue Bridge – again
Over a decade ago, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) approached the city of Glenwood Springs with a proposal to replace the Grand Avenue bridge with a wider, higher, and longer span. The reasons given by CDOT were: the lanes on the present bridge (which had been converted from two lanes plus a sidewalk on each side, to four lanes) were substandard – 9 1/2 feet wide instead of 11 feet; the clearance over the railroad tracks was less than that required by the latest standards; and the westbound I-70 exit lane was dangerously short because of the location of one of the piers of the present bridge. CDOT was anxious to get rid of these conditions, which gave their bridge a “substandard” rating.But the replacement bridge they proposed would have been a monster, occupying virtually the entire width of the Grand Avenue right-of-way north of Eighth Street. In addition, CDOT’s idea was to replace half of the width of the bridge at a time over two construction seasons, reducing the bridge to one lane in each direction for those two seasons. The traffic situation would have been a disaster, because at that time the Midland Avenue extension to the I-70 114 Exit did not exist, and the only bridge across the Colorado River was the Grand Avenue bridge. As an inducement to the city, CDOT suggested that wider lanes would improve the flow of traffic across the bridge, which was false because the stoplights were dictating the rate of progress of traffic.
The Grand Avenue bridge still sticks in CDOT’s craw, but not out of any concern on their part about traffic impacts on Grand Avenue. However, CDOT now has a new, and even more serious situation to deal with, and that is eastbound weekday morning traffic backing up into the interstate through lanes. This is a serious hazard for motorists from downvalley waiting to exit the interstate, potentially becoming victims of an accordion accident from a truck plowing into the line of stopped cars.As always, CDOT is looking desperately for a cheap way out of their Highway 82 problem, but replacing the Grand Avenue bridge is no solution. A new bridge will not move traffic any faster; traffic movement will still be controlled by the traffic signals, whose cycles are already stretched to the maximum. Furthermore, traffic volumes have increased so much over the past ten years that trying to replace the Grand Avenue bridge would still be a traffic nightmare, even with the availability of the Midland Avenue route.
The only feasible response to the steadily increasing traffic problem is to relocate Highway 82 onto the railroad corridor, which is the only logical route, because to be effective in reducing congestion on Grand Avenue, it must include a minimum of three connections to downtown to give commuters from downvalley access to their places of employment. Moving Highway 82 to the railroad corridor would provide a third route for through traffic, including trucks; and a second way for commuters from downvalley to get to the places where they work in downtown Glenwood Springs.Then CDOT can decide whether replacing the present Grand Avenue bridge is really necessary, since it will become part of “Business 82,” handling primarily local traffic.
Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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