The Grand Avenue Bridge – more than a necessity . . . it must be an asset.

Grand Avenue Bridge (left) and Pedestrian Bridge (right)  mid April 2013

Grand Avenue Bridge (left) and Pedestrian Bridge (right) mid April 2013

So . . . what’s new with THE BRIDGE. . . the Grand Avenue Bridge??

I love writing a blog.  I am not constrained by the AP style or what is expected of a news story.  Those things have their place . . . just not here.

First of all, thanks to Craig Gaskill for spending nearly an hour of his valuable time talking with me last Friday.  In previous blogs I have said that I really do try to understand the facts and the angle people are looking at the bridge, the ACP and any bypass or alternate route.  It is not always possible, but I try.

Today, CDOT sent out a press release updating the bridge process.  I know CDOT has many irons in the fire – and the Grand Avenue Bridge is just one.  Thanks to Nancy Shanks at CDOT for forwarding this release to me as well.

First of all – the Grand Avenue Bridge is not dead!   It is alive and well. 

A CMGC – short for General Manager Construction Manager – has been selected and is under contract with CDOT.   That Contractor, Granite/RLW Joint Venture has already been talking with folks in town, for several weeks, as well as the project design team.  It is my understanding that this contractor is based in Utah, but I have not been able to confirm.

Please know that the public process has not endedThe Stakeholders Working Group is meeting at 1:30 on Thursday May 30 at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.  Anyone is welcome to attend this meeting.  As Craig explained to me – the design piece of the Grand Avenue Bridge is so important to the community and so critical to the success of the project, that this piece has been accelerated.  Normally, there is the NEPA process (more on that in a later post) and then comes the design process.  Because this is so critical, according to Nancy Shanks, CDOT Public Relations, “Public input continues to be an important part of the process and will be considered along with the evaluation of impacts in the Environmental Assessment.  Input on architectural elements, design details, the construction detour, landscaping, signage and other elements will be the focus of work over the next 12 to 18 months.”   Primary needs to be addressed include the pedestrian bridge structure, the bridge design details and the design elements and treatments for the entry into Glenwood Springs from I-70.

Additionally, according to Mr. Gaskill, it is hoped that a representational model will be available around the first of June.   He stressed that the model will not include design elements, and as such is useful for scale and size, but is not a true representation of the final product.

According to Mr. Gaskill, the NEPA process is approximately midway.  The preliminary public review of the Environmental Assessment is slated for January 2014. At the same time, the pedestrian bridge type is expected.  The complete EA process, along with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) decision documents, are expected in May 2014. The findings could result in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or a Finding of No Significant Impact, also known as a FONSI.   The complete design is anticipated by December 2014 with construction beginning January 2015.  As CDOT stated, these dates could change.

My question to Mr. Gaskill was who is involved in making this decision document?  He explained that there are a number of entities involved included the State Historical Preservation Office, State Historical Society and CDOT.  The Federal Highway Administration has the final say along with the CDOT Chief Engineer.   However, he did say that they and CDOT will be ensuring that the proper public process has taken place before they sign off.

Mr. Gaskill and Ms. Shanks have indicated that the 6th and Laurel intersection is another prominent area of concern.  Apparently input has resulted in some new variations of that area that could result in “fewer property impacts and improved pedestrian access” according to a press release from CDOT.   Mr. Gaskill and I talked about the fact that pedestrian and bicycle circulation is of great concern in that area.   He stated that CDOT and the design team understand this concern, which has led to consideration of these additional alternatives.

Mr. Gaskill and I talked a bit about the I-70 116 interchange to the pedestrian bridge.  He indicated that there are three issues; 1) the complexity of the intersection 2) the ability of pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate the area and 3) the potential for redevelopment of the 6th Street area.  Apparently the group has determined the best option is an underpass of SH 82 in North Glenwood with a connection to Two Rivers Park. According to the press release, “The benefits of this option are a safer and more direct connection between Two Rivers Park and North Glenwood, including 6th Street and connections to the Glenwood Canyon Trail.”   I do know that in a discussion at the Glenwood Springs Rivers and Trails Commission last week, there was skepticism that this would work well.

Because of the discussion surrounding the Access Control Plan, the bridge project team is moving forward with a design based on a full movement intersection at 8th and Grand.  According to the press release, it will have little effect on the new Grand Avenue Bridge.

For open house exhibits and background as well as a list of Frequently Asked Questions, see http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge

If you want to receive project updates, sign up at www.coloradodot.info and clicking on the green cell phone in the upper right corner.  Sign in and scroll down to “projects” and choose “SH82 Aspen to Glenwood.”    Comments can also be provided directly to Joe Elsen at Joseph.Elsen@state.co.us.

As Mr. Gaskill and I wrapped up our conversation, as well as in an email with Ms. Shanks, I reiterated that the citizens of Glenwood Springs, while as a whole are a friendly bunch; we are also a very demanding bunch.  I appreciate that CDOT and their consultants and design team are going to great lengths to develop context sensitive solutions. However, the design, as well as the ability for easy, safe multi-modal transportation is critical to this community.  This bridge must be something that is not simply a necessity, but an asset.

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