Your commentary on the Grand Avenue bridge
BRIDGE EA IS WILDLY DEFICIENT
The text of this EA, while interesting, comes to a conclusion not meeting the requirements of the National Policy Environmental Act (NEPA) since that act requires the examination of all alternatives to the proposed action. A stated goal (2.1.1) is “to improve connectivity between the south side of the Colorado River (downtown Glenwood Springs) and the north side of the river (historic Glenwood Hot Springs area and I-70).
An excellent alternative happens to exist only a few hundred feet downstream that meets the above-stated goal. Despite repeated requests for inclusion by individuals and interested groups, that part of a legal study was brushed aside. During 1979, the railroad corridor was an alternative included in a study of ways to reduce traffic on Grand Avenue, was endorsed by the City Council, which made a written request that the Department of Highways budget money to begin construction. Since that time, many additional studies have been made of alternatives, none acknowledged, or even mentioned in the EA.
Another stated goal was “reduce and minimize construction impacts to businesses, transportation users and visitors.” No highway project, including the building of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, will miss this goal as badly as the one described in the EA.
Under Sec 2.4 — Alternatives. “a SH82 bypass” was briefly mentioned. Actually the railroad corridor is not a “bypass,” but is a relocation of SH82. It passes through the heart of the city. An EIS for this alternative has never been written, but deficiencies in the current bridge would have to be addressed in that document.
Other statements in that section are invalid, especially the estimate that this relocation would cost five to 10 times current available funding. That would be $500 million to $1 billion. A study of the alternative should provide a more realistic estimate. In consideration of the fact that no funds have been made available for relocation of SH82, this is a common approach to funding state highway projects. No construction funding was provided for I-70 through Glenwood Canyon or over Vail Pass, or SH82 from Carbondale to Aspen, until a design had been approved.
Construction phasing discusses building “causeways” alongside the new bridge to facilitate construction.
Causeways would be built by dumping dirt and rocks into the river and leveling and compacting with appropriate equipment. The water would be muddied during this phase of the construction and later on when that material was removed. While the river here is not considered to be prime fishing water, it is an excellent trout and whitefish fishery. No discussion of this impact can be found in the EA.
Detours as described in the EA will cause much inconvenience and dissatisfaction, especially while 18-wheelers are rolling past the Colorado Hotel (Fig. 2-13). The EA should discuss the handling of peak period traffic backing out onto I-70.
The most important aspect of the entire study is not addressed in the EA, that being the high traffic volumes locked onto Grand Avenue as a result of the proposed action. Air quality, congestion, trucks — many carrying hazardous loads — are impacts on this beautiful mountain city. The answer from supporters of the EA say this action would not block future consideration of an alternate route. Really? After spending over $100 million on this project, will CDOT ever consider funding for a new route for SH82?
District Engineer, Colorado Department of Highways, 1969-1982
THE BRIDGE IS A REGIONAL PROJECT
I’d just like to say thanks to all the citizens of this community who came to CDOT’s Environmental Assessment meeting at the Glenwood Springs Elementary School earlier this month. I certainly appreciate all of you taking the time to tell CDOT your thoughts on the bridge. We all hope they listened to what we had to say and will act accordingly.
As Kathy Trauger so conveniently pointed out in her blog the next morning about what happened, “the bridge is a regional issue.” With that said, NEPA will require an Environmental Impact Statement to approve any type of construction of a regional scope. Thank you again.
Chairman, Citizens to Save Grand Avenue
BRIDGE SHOULD BE PART OF A LARGER PLAN
Man, this is complicated. I went to the bridge open house earlier this month. I thought my mind was made up, but as I absorbed as much information as I could and listened to others with an open mind, I came away surprised at new insights and “conclusions.”
First, there is a lot to take in. The environmental assessment is complicated and not written for a layperson, let alone being hard to find.
I think the bridge as planned (with a few tweaks to make it more pedestrian- and bike-friendly) is beautiful and would make Glenwood Springs even better, but this bridge or any other won’t solve any of the current or future problems of congestion, traffic, noise, pollution and a host of other unsolved issues. I think it’s insanity to build this new bridge without first having a broader plan in place that, yes, includes a bypass. The existing bridge won’t fall down in the years it will take to do this planning. I think the bridge should be done as a part of the larger plan and the environmental impact statement must be done first.
The belief was expressed by many at the meeting that this is not a Glenwood Springs problem. It is a regional and state problem. Glenwood Springs happens to be the choke point for travelers from Parachute to Aspen and beyond, including at least three counties. The real solution is a political solution that includes the governor and whole state of Colorado.
I’m not saying bypass now, because we really don’t know … just that a comprehensive plan needs to be done first to see if the bridge as presented really is the best solution. How nuts would it be to build this bridge and then discover it’s in the wrong place when we finally do the EIS? And as an aside, why hasn’t this study been done yet and shouldn’t it be required before a bridge is built? How did we get this far without the EIS?
And last, the detours that will have to be endured for two years and the businesses that will have to suffer while the bridge is gone and I-70 is funneled down US 6 (yes, they have to close I-70 and put all traffic on US 6) for 90 days or longer is overwhelming. This seems too much of a burden for Glenwood Springs to bear. Would a better solution be to have the other part that includes the bypass done first, then do the bridge, or, with traffic already diverted to a bypass, repair and keep the historical bridge for local traffic, or even, just for bicycles and pedestrian traffic?
Some are calling for a vote for bridge or bypass, but what is there to vote for without the comprehensive EIS? We need the EIS and the help of the state and governor to get a real plan in place before we put a bridge in that won’t solve the traffic problems of our valley now, let along in another 50 years. If more planning is required to do this right, then isn’t Glenwood Springs worth taking this time and expense to try and get this right — finally?
OUR TOWN COULD BE WHOLE AGAIN
The Glenwood chamber, pool, merchants and City Council have just done to us again what they did in the ‘60s. Back then CDOT came to town to announce the new I-70 and a new diamond interchange where Village Inn sits today. And they gave us a choice. If they built the on and off ramps above the four-lane, then an alternate Highway 82 could someday be built up the valley and around town. If the ramps were under the four-lane that would pretty much guarantee SH-82 traffic across the bridge and up Grand Avenue.
Well, you can guess what the above pillars of commerce pushed for. Back then the Roaring Fork Valley was sleepy with just modest traffic up and down. The pool wanted to be seen. Merchants wanted people to stop. The chamber and City Council agreed. Done deal, city divided by a highway.
Flash forward, almost the same actors and chemistry. Replace “merchants” with Downtown Development Authority – yeah, classy new bridge. Watch the pool buy up Sixth Street for its next phase of development. Then listen to the City Council cry how powerless they are. But, is it a done deal again?
Reports say the “old bridge” isn’t old as bridges go and can be fixed. The only people wanting to tear it down are the same people wanting the credit for building a new one. The $120 million plus can be put into a new bypass bridge, with maybe a little left over for a new South Bridge. Over time, connect the two with an environmentally sound, quiet, slow and clean, two-lane alternate SH-82. The confluence can be protected. The Roaring Fork experience can be enhanced. Thousands of cars a day would be off our main street. Our town could be whole again. Let’s not give up again, like we did back then.
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