Letter: Replace bridge and study Hwy. 82 options
As the debate over the proposed Grand Avenue bridge replacement project enters yet another year, it’s time for Glenwood Springs residents to step back from our battle lines and look for common ground.
First, it’s important to recognize that everyone, on all sides of the issue, sincerely wants to preserve and enhance the small-town qualities that make our community livable and attractive. We may disagree on how best to achieve that, but no one wants to see our thoroughfares and neighborhoods overwhelmed by exhaust-belching traffic.
Second, let’s admit that some of this process is beyond our local control. We may be able to block the state from proceeding with the $100 million-plus project, as an earlier City Council did in 1997. But we do not have the ability to redirect those funds elsewhere, however much we may want to use them to relocate State Highway 82 or build a South Bridge river crossing. And neither a lawsuit nor a full-fledged EIS study is likely to change that.
While there are still design and construction staging details to be resolved, I support the proposed new bridge and expect it to provide significant benefits to Glenwood Springs. But I also recognize that a realigned SH 82 route is a long-held dream for many community members, who fear that if the state replaces the Grand Avenue bridge now, it will never agree to relocate the highway later.
Fear of losing the chance to move Highway 82 off of Grand is a major reason for much of the opposition to the bridge project. The city and state could greatly reduce that fear, however, by agreeing up front that building a new bridge will not foreclose the option of realigning SH 82.
CDOT has already conceded in the project’s environmental assessment (on pp. 2-5) that the Grand Avenue bridge project does “not preclude consideration of a SH 82 relocation.”
The city could further allay those fears by working with the state to jointly fund and participate in a regional planning process, along with local counties, to develop a coordinated transportation strategy for improving mobility and connectivity in and around Glenwood Springs. Once all the truly viable options are on the table — along with preliminary cost estimates — we can begin the hard work of deciding what comes next.
I still expect that a new SH 82 route through Glenwood Springs will prove to be too expensive, too damaging to our scenic river corridors and surrounding neighborhoods, and unlikely to provide significant traffic relief. But I’m willing to review and consider all of our options with an open mind. I invite you to join me.
Here’s hoping that our community can begin to come together in 2015 to resume this important discussion and that, in the meantime, we can agree on a plan that everyone can live with to move ahead with the much-needed Grand Avenue bridge replacement.
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