Bridging the Gap

Grand Avenue 7 a.m. 2-12-13For a while, I gave up reading opines and harangues that often grace the pages of our local newspaper, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. No longer! I eagerly scan the pages for articles, advertisements, columns, editorials and letters to the editor for yet another perspective on the three issues that seem to be at the forefront of community discontent:

• the Grand Avenue Bridge Project
• the proposed Access Control Plan
• the need for an alternate route through Glenwood Springs

One thing is crystal clear, no matter where people stand on these issues; the people of Glenwood Springs genuinely care about our town. Whether they are members of City Council, members of boards or commissions within the city of Glenwood, City staff, business owners, property owners or residents they all want what is best for Glenwood Springs. This is a very good thing!

What is NOT a good thing is that this energy is flowing in the wrong direction. CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, City Council and staff and “Citizens to Save Grand Avenue” are not the enemy. We are in this together. It behooves us, as citizens and residents of Glenwood Springs, to work toward solutions and not against each other. Will everyone agree on a solution? Absolutely not! But the challenges we face do not have to divide our town.

The items above are three distinct concerns. Are they intertwined? Possibly. Can we just lump them together to come up with the perfect solution? Probably not.

Today, I want to look at the alternate route/bypass issue. Granted – this could take several blogs – but I will try to hit some of the main points now.

A Bypass/Alternate Route has been contemplated, for at least 30 years based, sadly, on my personal knowledge and I understand it has been discussed for longer, perhaps 50 years. Here are some facts:

•The City of Glenwood Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) 2003-2030 addresses the “Relocation of State Highway 82.” In this plan, the location is identified as “. . . from Exit 114 along Midland Ave., crossing the Roaring Fork River and continuing along the rail corridor until 23rd Ave connecting to the existing Highway 82.” The LRTP goes on to say “It involves reconstructing Exit 114 and installing a bridge over the Roaring Fork River to connect to 8th Street, depending on the exact location of the preferred corridor. It also includes constructing an additional road, details depending on preferred corridor, following the rail corridor and a possible reconstruction of the 23rd Street intersection where it potentially will connect with the existing Highway 82.”
NOTE: Exit 114 – as mentioned in the above plan is the WEST Glenwood Exit.

•The same LRTP plan indicated “This is a cost estimate based on the 1999 analysis of Balloffet and Associates, Inc. in their Glenwood Springs State Highway 82 Alternatives. The approximate cost is $53 million.”

•The City’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted in March 2011 states, “The vision for transportation in Glenwood Springs is an integrated and balanced multi-modal transportation system –one that supports regional travel needs but not to the extent that it compromises a healthy, dynamic downtown, economic viability, pedestrian-orientation, and easy access to the city core.”

Key objectives in the Comp Plan include:
•Maximize effective traffic movement on Grand Avenue to the extent that it is consistent with maintaining pedestrian friendliness
•Increase the connectivity of local streets, trails and walkways to provide multiple routes for circulation through town
•Continue to assess and plan for an alternative alignment of State Highway (SH) 82
•Provide convenient alternatives to automobile circulation within the city limits for local residents and visitors.

The Comp Plan absolutely recommends that nothing should be done that will preclude an alternate route.

However, the Comp Plan also recognizes that the project is not currently part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) nor is there currently funding for such a project. That does not mean that funding is impossible. It is just simply not on the radar at this time – partly due to the fact that, in spite of the information in the LRTP – there has never been consensus on exactly how and where the alternate route should go. Add to the mix is the fact that in order to make this happen, the City must work with the County, Union Pacific and RFTA in the preservation of the rail corridor.

One other point:
Funds for the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement come from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund and cannot be used to fund a bypass/alternate route. From the CDOT Website, “The purpose of the CBE is to finance, repair, reconstruct and replace bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated “poor.”

There is no easy solution. I am all for rolling up our sleeves and working together to finally find some additional routes for all transit through town. However, simply saying that we should not move forward to replace our aging bridge until we have an alternate route is not the answer. That is akin to burying your head in the sand and waiting until everything is just perfect and comes together in just the right way. We need to let go of our perfectionism and work toward practical, financially realistic solutions to our problems.

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