Sundin column: Glenwood Springs is a city of potholes, gridlock |

Sundin column: Glenwood Springs is a city of potholes, gridlock

Hal Sundin

Several months ago, Glenwood Springs voters rejected a proposed tax increase and bond issue to fund a multi-million-dollar street repair program to replace large sections of failed pavement with a new base and surface.

As a result, the city is now confronted with the challenge of keeping its streets in passable condition on a worst-first basis as funds can be made available.

In the meantime, measures need to be taken to minimize progressive pavement damage. Reducing (and enforcing) speed limits would be beneficial in reducing damages to both the pavement and people’s vehicles. Weight limits would be beneficial, but are impractical because of the need for waste removal.

The most-effective plan would be to convert waste removal to a single hauler.

One of the heavy packer trucks now in use causes as much pavement damage as thousands of automobiles, especially in the spring when the sub-grade is thawing. It makes no sense to have three of those heavy vehicles lumbering up and down our streets every week.

Reducing waste removal to a single collector would not only reduce damage to our streets, but would also reduce fuel consumption (environmentally beneficial) and the labor required, cutting the cost of waste removal for all Glenwood Springs residents and businesses.

Carbondale has recently converted to a single waste collector — why can’t Glenwood Springs? It only makes sense!

Gridlock! Have you noticed how traffic on Grand Avenue has been increasing, not only during the morning and evening rush hours, but throughout much of the day?

It will only get worse, and very soon when the Six Canyon apartment complex with its 116 units is occupied. Glenwood Springs and Aspen have the same problem of downtown gridlock from Highway 82 traffic.

Aspen has wrestled with this problem for years, being unable to agree on a remedy and voting down construction proposals time after time. Colorado Department of Transportation planners have predicted that Highway 82 on Grand Avenue will become non-functional due to the increasing volume of traffic within 5-10 years.

Yet CDOT’s bridge surveillance section insisted on going ahead with the removal and replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge without any consideration of the prediction of increasing traffic.

Instead of questioning the wisdom of CDOT’s decision (in spite of its own traffic projections), Glenwood’s City Council fell into lock step with CDOT, turning a deaf ear to requests for a public survey to give the city’s residents a voice in the decision. It even ignored the results of a privately funded public opinion poll of all city residents, which showed that the residents were overwhelmingly against the bridge replacement until a long-range plan for dealing with the projected future traffic was developed.

So, instead of planning ahead and considering the likely need for another route through Glenwood Springs, $126 million has been spent for a bridge replacement that perpetuates the overwhelming of Grand Avenue by all of the Highway 82 traffic coming off I-70.

Now, what can be done to dig us out of the mess we have inherited? How do we avoid being overwhelmed by the rapidly increasing volume of traffic trying to get through Glenwood Springs?

Three alternatives come to mind. One is the “do-nothing” alternative: just let the commute-time get so long that the public will clamor for increasing public transportation. But that would require a huge fleet of buses (and drivers) much of which would sit idle except during the morning and evening commuter rushes. Commuter rail would face the same problem.

Another way to get more vehicles through town in a reasonable time is to increase the speed limit on Grand Avenue to 45 or 50 miles per hour, but that would be totally unacceptable.

A third alternative is to construct more traffic lanes through Glenwood Springs, which would require finding a suitable right-of-way through the city and a way of diverting a large portion of the traffic that is now confined to Grand Avenue by the new bridge.

The 100-foot-wide railroad corridor on the east side of the Roaring Fork River is a potential route through town. But, finding and constructing a route for diverting traffic coming off I-70 to another bridge over the Colorado River is a more daunting challenge, and would likely cost several hundred thousand dollars.

This could have been avoided by a little forethought and planning for the future. There has never been a right time to make a wrong decision.

Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. “As I See It” appears monthly in the Post Independent and at Contact him at

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