Hot Under the Collar

It is February and things are heating up around OUR TOWN! Is it due to “Spring Fever” or global warming or climate change? Nope! That hot-under-the-collar feeling is due to our community gateway – the Grand Avenue Bridge. The debate around town is not about the design, or the aesthetics, or the lighting, or the material. To quote a phrase from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “To be, or not to be, that is the question . . .”

Actually, that is not exactly the question. It is apparent we NEED some bridge over the Colorado River to get from the north to the south side. The question is whether we need a new bridge now.

From the Save Grand Avenue Facebook site, this group, headed by John Haines asserts:
• “Replacing the bridge will do nothing to solve the Grand Avenue traffic problem. Such as traffic volume, heavy truck traffic, noise, dust and air pollution.
• Instead of focusing exclusively on Grand Ave. bridge, CDOT and Glenwood Springs should look at the whole picture of Grand Avenue – Hwy. 82 traffic needs and develop a comprehensive plan that is sensitive to the interest of both.
• Imposing a Grand Ave. Access Control Plan to prioritize Highway 82 traffic over Glenwood Springs residents use of their downtown will do irreparable harm to our city and to the tourist business which is vital to our economy.
• Closing Grand Ave. bridge to all traffic for 2 months, and possible more, will be devastating to our business community and the sales tax revenue needed by the city.
• By CDOT’s own admission additional lanes will be needed to accommodate future traffic volumes. Why not do that before taking the Grand Ave. bridge out of service and avoid the result traffic impasse and the need for any Access Control Plan.”

John Haines, as mentioned above is a former Glenwood Springs business owner – John Haines Chevrolet – and a resident of Westbank, a development between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale –– has been a vocal in his opposition to the project. He addressed Glenwood Spring City Council stating, “I don’t think you folks have a true grasp of what the feeling is in the community about this bridge.” Interestingly enough, this page only has 17 “Likes” thus far. But who am I to talk . . . since I am having these conversations, on my blog, with myself.

Others, well known to this community including Hal Sundin; Chris McGovern, a former member of City Council and the Transportation Commission; Cheryl Cain, a current Transportation Commission member; Walt Brown, a local attorney, have also weighed in against moving forward with a new bridge at this time. Some have said that a bridge should be approved by a vote of the people.

Some, like Ken Kriz a business owner and non-resident, do not dispute the need for a new bridge. However, according to his February 12, 2013 letter in the Glenwood Post Independent, Mr. Kriz is concerned that, “Once the bridge and bypass through the center of Glenwood Springs is done, there will be no other need for a different bypass.”

Several members of City Council, including Mayor Matt Steckler have commented in response to either letters from citizens or advertisements placed in the Glenwood Post Independent. Mayor Steckler concurs, in his January 28th “My Side” column, that construction of a new bridge will not be painless. He also stated that he finds the current traffic and pedestrian flow conditions on Grand Avenue and in our downtown core unacceptable. However, he pointed out that “Opposing these plans does not in any way advance the concept of a bypass or a rerouting of state Highway 82 traffic.”

Councilman Steven Bershenyi, in his February 1, 2013 letter to the editor commented that the City Council and the City of Glenwood Springs does not deserve the scorn of Citizens to Save Grand Avenue. He states that it is “completely unproductive” and urged making these decisions as a community.

Councilman Ted Edmonds noted in his February 12, 2013 letter to the editor, “It is also important to recognize that the issue of the Grand Avenue Bridge is separate from the access control plan.”

As I mentioned in my February 11 blog, though not in these exact words, we are dealing with three discrete challenges:
• The Grand Avenue Bridge
• The Access Control Plan
• The Bypass/Alternate route

Here are some facts about the existing bridge, as I understand them:
 The bridge is owned by the state of Colorado and is within the state right-of-way
 The bridge was built in 1953
 Engineering criteria at the time of construction was for a fifty year life span.
 Travel lanes do not meet current criteria for width
 The bridge piers are on shallow foundation and susceptible to “scour”
 Piers near I-70 are too close to the roadway, making it vulnerable to an accident with a semi or other heavy vehicle
 The bridge was designed for smaller loading criteria than currently exist
 The bridge clearance over the railroad does not meet current standards
 The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 47.4 and is functionally obsolete
 The bridge is a riveted plate girder continuous bridge
 The bridge is currently experiencing chucks of falling concrete, exposing rebar, leading to corrosion and compromising structural integrity.
 Current estimated budget for replacement: $46M
 Funded by Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund
 NEPA Goals for this project are:
o Meet design standards as practical to improve connectivity between the south side of the Colorado River and the north side of the river
o Maintain consistency with city planning regarding transportation and land use
o Accommodate multimodal transportation including buses, pedestrians and bicycles
o Meet transportation safety needs of all users p auto, truck, bus, pedestrian and bicycle
o Reduce and minimize construction impacts to the business, transportation users and visitors.
o Provide effective access for existing and future economic activity
o Avoid and minimize environmental impacts to scenic, aesthetic, historic and natural resources
o Provide practical and financially realistic transportation improvements for the 2035 planning horizon and a structure that will be sound for a minimum of 30 years
o Maintain or improve transportation (traffic and ped/bike) operations in the project area
o Incorporate sustainable elements into the design
o Provide an aesthetically appropriate solution that is in harmony with the context of the natural and built environment
o Avoid or minimize proximity, economic and right-of-way impact and relocations to adjacent properties.
o Incorporate Context Sensitive Solutions into the planning and design including community-based issues such as urban design and aesthetics.

WHEW! I am sure there are more.

The perplexing thing is I have seen very few of these facts (or any that I can think of) presented or disputed in opposition to the Grand Avenue Bridge Project.

What may be a fact is that IF City Council adopts a version of the Access Control Plan; the bridge project may trigger a small portion of that plan, most likely the area from 8th Street through 10th or 11th Street. However, Council appears to be moving very cautiously, particularly surrounding the Access Control Plan in the Downtown area.

We want our town, Glenwood Springs to be known for our beautiful vistas, our recreation, our hot springs, our caves, our great people and our quaint downtown. What we do not want to be known for is a major accident such as happened in 2007 on I-35W over the Mississippi.

As Mayor Steckler stated, a bridge does not preclude an alternate route through Glenwood Springs. Most would argue that additional ways to get through town, other than our downtown would be a grand idea. It sounds like we have some people interested in moving that forward. Great!!! Do it!!! Let’s get together and get funding and a consensus for location and do it!!!

But, please don’t put a roadblock to replacing the bridge we currently have. Look at the facts and then become positively involved. We need to move forward with the Grand Avenue Bridge Project.

I hope to have more historical information on the current bridge later as well as some photographs but if you can’t wait, an excellent source is the Denver Public Library Digital Collection

6 comments on “Hot Under the Collar

  1. chris mcgovern says:

    Ostensibly- an ACCESS CONTROL PLAN is put into place in order to avoid serious accidents on a stretch of highway.

    The consultants on this project have admitted that the GS stretch of Highway #82/Grand Avenue DOES NOT have a history of frequent or serious accidents.

    This plan is being put forward therefore, in order to facilitate moving MORE vehicles THROUGH Glenwood (particularly between the communities west of Glenwood to/from the areas south of Glenwood).

    The ACCESS CONTROL PLAN is being proposed to move traffic along #82 at the expense of the Glenwood Springs community and at the expense of circulation patterns within Glenwood.

    The consultants say that because Hwy #82 will be running more smoothly, that all of Glenwood will work better.

    The town would be bisected by an ACCESS CONTROL PLAN that is designed to mitigate traffic congestion on Grand Ave.

    • Glenwood citizens & visitors will be PROHIBITED from making left hand turns off Grand or onto Grand (that are currently allowed) at 56 locations between 8th and 30th.
    • As the study is proposed now- a car would not be allowed to travel ACROSS Grand Avenue at 8th Street or at 10th Street…. which truly cuts off one side of town from the other. All of the existing cross traffic east to west and west to east that currently travels on 8th, 9th and 10th is proposed to be handled by 9th Street. Very little of the cross traffic would move farther to the south- unless 9th Street stopped working/which of course COULD happen. (8th St. is already “past capacity”.)
    • There will be no turns from Grand Ave onto 7th… no access from Grand at that point, as the wing street will be closed.
    • 5 Parking spaces will be lost from the current parking area under the bridge.
    • If a vehicle was parked at the new library on 8th Street: the only “move” allowed at 8th & Grand would be to take a right hand turn & go over the bridge; there is no way to stay in downtown (The wing street is also proposed to be removed)
    • Jimmy’s 66 at 13th is supposed to share a driveway onto Grand with the neighbor to the south. Has no-one ever walked those parcels to note the huge grade difference between the 2 properties?
    • Around 23rd….if a vehicle-customer coming from south Hwy #82 wanted to make a purchase from Arby’s…. the customer would need to go PAST Arby’s, take a left into Safeway, go south through the Safeway parking lot, continue going through Wendy’s parking lot, and finally arrive in Arby’s. What do you suppose that the impact will be on Arby’s business?
    • The gas station is even beyond Arby’s. Do planners really think that a consumer would take a left into Safeway, go through Wendy’s, go through Arbys in order to get to the gas station?
    • A customer would not be able to take a left into the US Bank in the 1900 block of Grand. When approaching from the south, the only access would be through Safeway.
    • How does Safeway feel about being the “access” for a bank, for 2 restaurants and for a gas station? How much of the Safeway driveways are given up to traffic that is not Safeway’s customers? What kind of insurance liabilities must be absorbed by Safeway with this configuration?
    • The Access Control Plan originally called for the Lutheran Church to be removed so that North Hyland drive can be straightened out to “meet” the corner of Park across the street. The plan has been changed to indicate the need to straighten out that intersection- but it could be done by taking 2 residential homes OR the Church.
    • All of the property owners on the west side of Grand Ave between North Park Drive & South Park Dr. will be forced to “share” driveways” between neighbors with the “sale and/or redevelopment of property that brings a 20% increase of traffic”. (like a daycare home!) They will only be able to take a right hand turn out of their driveways. What do you suppose this does to THEIR property values?
    • If you are in a vehicle on the east side of Grand between 14th and 20th—- you cannot take a left to get onto Grand Ave. according to the proposed plan (unless a “solution can be found for North Hyland Park Drive).. How much additional traffic does this force onto Blake Avenue ? What will the “wait” will be at he stop lights on 14th and 20th? How long do folks wait now to get across?
    • When asked about pedestrian movements across Grand Ave , the planners kind of “shrugged” and stated that pedestrians would “still” be able to get across Grand at 8th (even though there’d be no signal/light…. but “perhaps” a safety median could be put there.) The PLAN calls for pedestrians to be “pushed” down to crossing under the bridge-closer to 7th…. instead of crossing at 8th (which is the heaviest used crossing in town).
    • Traveling south on Hwy #82 between 23rd and 27th—- there will be NO left hand turns allowed. You won’t be able to turn left into Domino’s, Defiance Thrift Store, etc. That means BLAKE between 23rd and 27th will have to service south bound-commercial traffic that is trying to get into all the businesses between 23rd & 27th. That stretch of Blake is not in any condition to carry that kind of traffic.
    • The ACCESS CONTROL PLAN has Blake at 27th open through to Wal-Mart…. even though the Transportation Commission has been told by City Staff that was not being considered. Blake is not in any condition from 23rd to Wal-Mart to carry “through” traffic. Property owners along South Blake have not been noticed or consulted on this part of the proposal.

    Everyone in Glenwood will be affected by an ACCESS CONTROL PLAN.

    Many businesses in Downtown Glenwood will be adversely affected.
    Businesses on Hwy #82 between 19th and 23rd would be severely impacted.
    Citizens living on Blake, Cooper & Colorado will be negatively impacted.

    The ACCESS CONTROL PLAN is increasing Hwy #82 traffic capacity at the EXPENSE of Glenwood circulation patterns (and subsequently at the expense of local businesses/ the GS tax base).

    CDOT needs to relocate Hwy #82 OFF of GRAND AVE in order to add vehicle capacity through this narrow valley.
    Glenwood citizens & visitors should not have to give up community circulation and “quality of life” in order for CDOT to move more cars & trucks THROUGH Glenwood.

  2. […] Thank you to Chris McGovern for forwarding comments of Mr. Dick Prosence to my February 20th post […]

  3. […] This, as promised, is in response to a comment from Chris McGovern to my blog “Hot Under the Collar” posted February 20th : […]

  4. I can’t help but comment on your remark about the low number of facebook likes and your blogging to yourself……………..such is the challenge of marketing and getting the word out. Facebook likes are often purchased as are google ads etc. You pay money to get your site found and into the eyes of the public. As a business owner, I find the number of facebook likes a poor representation of support for my business. Our page has only 259 likes over the last 5 years, but we have over a 1000 email subscribers and thousands of more customers that aren’t on either list. And by the way, I would have never known about your blog if it weren’t for C2SGA posting it on their page.

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