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 http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/