Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge – What do you think?

The following is a press release from CDOT regarding the Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge

News From
The Colorado Department
of Transportation
http://www.coloradodot.info
Twitter: @coloradodot

Contact: Nancy Shanks, CDOT Public Relations
(970) 385-1428 or (970) 749-3579 mobile
Joe Elsen, CDOT Program Engineer
(970) 384-3332 office, (970) 379-9532 mobile
August 19, 2013
Grand Ave. Bridge EA – Enthusiastic Support for the New Pedestrian Bridge Type

Ped Bridge 1

Glenwood Springs City Council favors simple ped bridge design that complements surrounding environment

GLENWOOD SPRINGS –At an August 1, 2013, workshop with Glenwood Springs City Council, a pedestrian bridge that focused on historic elements consistent with downtown Glenwood Springs was unanimously favored. This was consistent with what the project team had heard from public comments on pedestrian bridge types and features at public meetings, Strawberry Days exhibits and Downtown Market events.

A new pedestrian bridge was not originally part of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. The concept was introduced as part of the overall solution last fall when the project team began looking at how to demolish and construct the highway bridge. There are numerous utilities under the highway bridge that will have to be relocated before the existing bridge can be removed and replaced. The most efficient way to relocate these utilities was to place them on a new pedestrian bridge. The new pedestrian bridge also facilitates accelerated bridge construction techniques, important on this project to minimize impacts.

As this concept was considered in the evaluation process, it became apparent that a new pedestrian bridge would address almost all of the project criteria, including multimodal connectivity; safety and consistency with regional planning. As well, it has the potential to offer better harmony within the community, have reduced overall construction costs, minimize impacts to private property, and reduce overall impacts.

Ped bridge 2

The benefits and issues to consider in replacing the pedestrian bridge were presented at a combined Project Leadership Team/Project Working Group meeting back in October 2012. In November, the project team asked the Stakeholder Working Group to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of a new pedestrian bridge and what the bridge might look like. After initial input from this group, the project team developed a list of 14 potential bridge types that could be considered.

Attendees at the January 9, 2013, Public Open House commented on the 14 bridge type options and how some of them would look when paired with different Grand Avenue Bridge options. In addition to improving on the functionality of the existing bridge, public input suggested that the new pedestrian bridge would need to complement the highway bridge, accommodate both pedestrians and bicycles, and incorporate the aesthetics and historic details that fit the historic context of Glenwood Springs.

The project team considered the public and stakeholder comments at a bridge design workshop held in February. The team’s bridge architect, engineers, and environmental experts discussed the merits and disadvantages of a wide range of bridge types. After two days of discussion, the project team narrowed the 14 options to three options to be considered in more detail. These options were: 1) a single-tower, cable-stayed symmetric span bridge (two equal spans); 2) a single-tower, cable-stayed asymmetric-span bridge (spans of different lengths); and 3) an arch bridge that spans from the south bank to north of I-70.

During the discussions and subsequent evaluations, the project team evaluated the bridge types using several criteria: environmental impacts, site constraints/opportunities, aesthetics, constructability/phasing, schedule, maintenance, cost, span, and other impacts.
Renderings and models were presented to the Glenwood Springs City Council, other stakeholders, and the public while conceptual design details were being developed. There was no overwhelming support for any one of the options. After feedback was received on May 30 from the Stakeholder Working Group and the City Council voiced concerns that the current options did not reflect the character of the community, the project team reset their direction and developed three bridge types to present to the City Council on August 1.

“All of the bridge types we have considered would meet the purpose and need of the project, and would work from an engineering perspective,” CDOT Region 3 Central Program Engineer Joe Elsen said. “The public process helped us come up with the best solution for the community. We listened, redesigned, and now have what we believe to be a winning option that will be cost-effective to design and build.”

The current bridge type is what is called a five-span, variable-depth girder bridge. The 16-foot-wide bridge would be supported by girders under the deck rather than cables and towers above the deck, features found to block the views of the mountains and the river. The bridge would also clear span the Colorado River and incorporate several shorter towers with architectural elements consistent with the historic character of Glenwood Springs. It would accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists, with the potential for overlooks and other amenities.

Ped bridge 3

Gaining the endorsement of the City Council at their August 1st meeting and input from the individuals who have viewed the renderings at the Tuesday Downtown Markets means that the project team can start developing additional design details.

Ped Bridge 4

“Arriving at one solution from where we started was the result of the community’s vision for a context-sensitive design, an open and public process, and a talented group of bridge architects and engineers who were open to considering the range of options until we got it right,” Elsen said.

The public can see conceptual renderings in the lobby of the Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 West 8th Street. The model will also be available every other week at the Downtown Market in Centennial Park Tuesdays from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Those wanting to receive project updates can sign up via CDOT’s free message system by going to http://www.coloradodot.info/ and clicking on green cell phone in the upper right hand side of the page. After signing in, scroll down to “Projects” and choose “SH 82 Aspen to Glenwood.”

The project is funded through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, a government-owned business entity within CDOT. The Colorado General assembly created the statewide Bridge Enterprise via Senate Bill 09-108, also known as FASTER (Funding Advancements for Surface Treatment and Economic Recovery)

http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/transitandrail/resource-materials-new/TRACdocument-SB09-108(FASTER)/view.
http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/BridgeEnterprise

The purpose of the Bridge Enterprise is to complete designated bridge projects that involve the financing, repair, reconstruction and replacement of bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated “poor” by CDOT.

The Wolf Lurks

Councilors Edmonds and Leahy discuss the CDOT Model

Councilors Edmonds and Leahy discuss the CDOT Model

Many of us, given a choice, would go with status quo.  Let’s keep things the same. We want our town to be the same place we grew up in. Even my son said this just this weekend.  I touched on this in an earlier post FEAR, FACT and FRUSTRATION as well as SEEKING UNDERSTANDING.  There is a German axiom that states, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

This week, my personal wolf is fairly monstrous. I struggled with maintaining the status quo for a very long time.  The problem with the status quo is that it simply doesn’t exist.  Like it or not, things are always changing.  I am learning that I do not control the universe . . . darn!   While I would like to keep my body in the same shape as it was when I was 20- that just is not reality. Let’s just say that I am a bit beyond 20 and hereditary factors, age and wear are taking a bit of a toll.  This week I will have surgery for a right hip arthroplasty – a fancy term for a hip replacement.  Is my fear level up?  You bet.  I am reassured by numerous success stories, but still, the wolf lurks.

During a workshop with Council and CDOT Thursday evening, for which I was late . . .  there was significant discussion on mitigation factors for the Grand Avenue Bridge project.  If those that were there would like to comment more on that aspect, I would appreciate it   Council, and those of us in attendance, also got a chance to look at a scale model of the proposed bridge.  This model will be available for viewing at a booth at Strawberry Days as well as during the summer at the Downtown Market.  I would encourage everyone to take some time to look at it.  A word of caution – this is a model, made of white plastic and meant to show size and scale.  It is not meant to show design elements.  You will see a few of the initial design elements proposed by the designers for the pedestrian bridge.  However, those have been modified, in design drawings, to bring in more of the historical feel of Glenwood Springs.  I sincerely hope, as Council member Todd Leahy suggested, that CDOT brings those design boards along with the model to the public.  I think it will go a long way to alleviating some fears.

Also discussed at last night’s Council meeting was a proposal by Garfield County resident, John Haines, to bring an “advisory” ballot question to the residents of Glenwood Springs regarding the bridge.   The proposed language was as follows:

  1. Should the City of Glenwood Springs proceed with the replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge as currently proposed.   YES or NO
  2. Or should the City of Glenwood Springs focus its attention on a master plan to relieve Grand Avenue of State Highway 82 traffic  YES or NO

John Haines, and three others, Jim Denton, Hal Sundin and Cheryl Cain urged Council to consider such a vote.  It was the contention of Mr. Haines that there is overwhelming public sentiment against a new bridge and Council does not have the pulse of the people.  Hal Sundin maintained that if Council is truly interested, then Council should let the public speak via a vote.  Cheryl Cain, a member of the City’s Transportation Commission said that citizens want to be involved and deserve to be involved.  She felt communication is better but still not what it needs to be.

Charlie Willman stated that he was speaking as a private citizen, not as a DDA member. Mr. Willman pointed out that such a vote would be a waste of funds because, in the end, it is CDOT’s decision, not the citizens of Glenwood Springs, whether a new bridge will be constructed. The bridge is part of State Highway 82 and it is within CDOT’s purview.  Additionally, he noted that the results of such a ballot would not be representative of the wishes of the people.  Generally, there is more impetus for those against something to cast a ballot than there is for those in favor. As alternatives, he suggested a straw poll or enlisting the services of a professional survey.

Mr. Denton countered Mr. Willman’s suggestion that a survey be done, stating that might have been a valid way to conduct a poll at one time, but now, due to cell phones, that is no longer viable.   He suggested a mail in vote allowing citizens from Rifle to Aspen a vote.

By and large, Council was not in favor of a vote. Council member Matt Steckler held that it could take months of argument about how the ballot question should be worded and who should be allowed to vote.     Mr. Steckler pointed out that, as a “representative democracy” City Council has been elected by the people to represent them in such decisions. He noted that if Council is not representing the wishes of the people, the people have the option to remove them from office.  He contended that the NEPA process gives Glenwood a voice in the bridge process.  He acknowledged that he is interested in providing a benefit to the citizens of Glenwood Springs and declared that he will not support any ballot question on this subject.

Councilor Mike Gamba observed that the question, as stated, was a false choice.  He emphasized that these are not alternatives that are available.  The city cannot take the $60 million offered by the State in the Bridge Enterprise Fund and use it to build a bypass.  He reminded the public that Glenwood has a 60 year old bridge that is deficient and unsafe.  Councilman Gamba stated that whether the bridge serves as Highway 82 or a connection to Grand Ave, Glenwood needs a new bridge.  He agreed that CDOT has a right to build a bridge, vote or no vote and acknowledged that CDOT has been very respectful in this process.

Councilman Ted Edmonds affirmed that he was also opposed to this suggestion by Citizens to Save Grand Avenue.   He noted that if a vote were put to the citizens of Glenwood Springs asking whether Glenwood should have a bypass, it would probably show that the citizens think there should be a bypass.  However he stated the “devil is in the detail.”  It could be argued that Midland is not a good location due to all of driveways accessing it.  The other popular suggested alternative is the river corridor, however, the problem is that the City of Glenwood Springs does not own the corridor.  Most of it is controlled by RFTA and has been rail-banked in order to preserve the potential of heavy freight on the corridor.

Councilor Edmonds recounted that a friend of his in had driven over the I-5 Bridge in Seattle just minutes before it collapsed in May.  That bridge, he confirmed was considered functionally obsolete, just as the Grand Avenue Bridge has been rated.  Every condition of that bridge, he stressed, applies to the Grand Avenue Bridge.  He stated that he considers the primary function of City Council to be safety and he is opposed to delaying this process, which he said has been a good bridge.  He emphasized that Glenwood  desperately needs a new bridge now.

Council member Stephen Bershenyi acknowledged that these issues cut across the community.  Taking the charge of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue seriously, he stated he has spent much time talking with people in the community.  Overwhelmingly, he stated, the citizens believe we need a new bridge that safeguards both people and the economy of Glenwood.  He reiterated that CDOT has been much more collaborative than in the past.  He agreed that he was unwilling to spend $15,000 on a question that does not need to be asked and questioned whether the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue actually have a majority opinion.  He asserted that Council has done their due diligence in wrestling with this decision.

Councilman Dave Sturges said that he is interested in getting more citizen input and the city needs to do more to engage citizens.  He asserted that meetings do not leave room for dialog and are driven by agendas.  He observed that Glenwood is the midst of a decision. He questioned what the right solution is at this time. He acknowledged that the point that the current bridge is functionally obsolete is hard to argue but he does not think that the process is to the point of asking this question.  The question of whether Grand Avenue should be relieved of Highway 82 traffic is not an either-or question. Councilor Sturges also stated that he has concerns with the process and the transparency of the process. He encouraged citizens to stay involved, although he stated he could not support this proposal at this time.

Mayor Leo McKinney observed that if there was as much opposition to the bridge as the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue indicate, City Council chambers would have been packed. He recognized that this has been a lengthy, ongoing process.  He acknowledged that the bridge construction will be very painful but hoped it would be painful for only a very short period of time.

In the end Council did not need to take any action on this item, and it was clear that this proposal was not moving forward.  However, as Councilor Sturges stated, the citizens must continue to be involved in this critical process.  I would be interested in hearing your ideas about ways to foster citizen involvement in this and other important decisions in our city and in our region.  What could the City be doing and what, as citizens could we be doing to make this communication an ongoing thing? BTW – anyone interested in serving on the Planning Commission?  We could use some citizen involvement!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Momentum

8th and Grand 6-15-13

8th & Grand Ave, Glenwood Springs

I am a “play by the rules” kind of person.  I am the one in the office that loves the thought of creating policies and then developing procedures to follow.  Maybe this is one reason that I am drawn to serve on the local Planning Commission . . . that and I drive my family and a few others crazy with my never ending passion for planning . . . everything . . . gardens, vacations, dinners, cleaning  . . . whatever.  What I have learned over the years is that, for me, the planning is the fun and easy part.  Getting it done  . . . well that is another story.   Herein lies another problem.  I am also a bit of a perfectionist.  Ok, you may not know that from looking at my garden, or my home, or my blog.

The funny thing is that I am not alone – apparently.  In my short tenure – four years – with the Planning Commission and in working with other municipal committees, commissions, councils and personnel, I have come to realize that the planning, the visioning, the dreaming is the easy and fun part.  It is the roll-up-your-sleeves, grab a shovel, get your hands dirty putting those dusty plans into action that is infinitely more difficult.  Why is that?

Part of it is that we are all, to some degree, perfectionists.  We want whatever we do to be the Martha Stewart dinner party, the perfect vacation that our family will always remember, the garden that the neighbors oooh and aaah over.  For some of us, when the weeds start  taking over the garden, or the dust bunnies start reproducing in the corners, we throw up our hands and quit.  Things are not quite as easy as we envisioned.  We give up.

The other issue is that, whether you really want to admit it or not, we generally have a desire to be liked and to please people.  Face it, whether you are dealing with a family or a group of citizens, you are not going to make everyone happy all the time.  In fact, you will probably irritate almost everyone at one time or another.   Making decisions and taking a stand is quite frankly hard work.  My job as a Planning Commission member is aided by a few things, ordinances, codes, and laws – all those things I find comforting in their structure.  However, these same things  – and the beaurocracy that can be associated with it can be stifling to the most productive of those among us.

For many years I have heard the term “political will.”   “All it takes is political will.”  Maybe.  Is that the same as political power?   But “power” is a strong word that brings visions and potential of abuse.

Last week at the Glenwood Springs City Council meeting I heard another word – perhaps one more fitting to the events happening in Glenwood Springs right now.  That word is “momentum.”  Councilor Todd Leahy used it to describe what is happening in Glenwood Springs right now.  He is right.  Glenwood Springs is in a unique position at this moment in time.   I have rarely seen the synergy between entities that have never been at the same table before as I have in the last few months. We have CDOT, Union Pacific, RFTA, Garfield County,  city staff and city council, along with others,  in various stages of planning and doing . . . working on the hard stuff . . .  the stuff that forges long term agreements and clears the way for perhaps one of the most exciting times in Glenwood Spring history.  Will it please everyone? Not a chance.  But in my opinion, we would be negligent to miss this chance to get something done!

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.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Apricot Tree in full bloom!
Apricot Tree

Apricot Tree

Some of us remember the song, Turn! Turn! Turn! written by Pete Seeger and made popular by the Byrds in 1965.  The song is based on Ecclesiastes3:1-8 (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

In my back yard, my fruit trees are blooming and a pair of little finches furiously building a nest above my front door.  My 17-year-old cat stands guard at the door waiting to be allowed outside to bask in the warmth of the sun on our deck. My very shaggy Goldendoodle and Cairn terrier are in desperate need of a clipping to keep them cool. Snow is giving way to rain. Yes, the seasons are changing and I welcome it with open arms.

Change is in the air at City Hall as well.  I welcome a new Mayor, Leo McKinney and thank Matt Steckler for his time while serving as Mayor.  Councilor Steckler continues to serve as a very effective member of City Council.  Both Councilor Steckler and now-Mayor McKinney ran unopposed in April’s election.  Congratulations go out to Stephen Bershenyi, our resident blacksmith, for winning re-election to a second term in City Council against Lyle Beattie.   Mr. Beattie should be commended for stepping up and throwing his hat in the ring.   I hope I am half as engaged and energetic as he is in a few years.  What a dedicated public servant he has been for Glenwood Springs over the years!

Dave Sturges, while willing and capable, did not succeed in his wish to become mayor. Still, he serves a very valuable leadership role on City Council.  While he has been known to pontificate, he brings a balancing opinion to this council. His extensive background and experience serves him well in this role. Besides, he is just a nice guy to talk with.

The remaining three City Council members, not up for re-election this year, continue to serve this community well, if not contentiously.  Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba bring a decidedly conservative perspective.  Both Councilor Leahy and Gamba bring a down-to-earth, realistic view of issues.  They have had the opportunity to see the concerns and issues from a developer/engineer side as well as from the apparently thankless position on the dais. I admire their straight-forward attitude.

Councilor Ted Edmonds is still the most enigmatic of our City Council members to me.  A numbers guy, I am told, he is probably the least loquacious member of Council, but he continues to surprise me.

At any rate – tonight’s City Council meeting had a slightly different tenor. There was a discussion of the Thompson Divide Lease Suspension of which there was unanimous Council support for an Appeal of the BLM decision, prepared by Pitkin County.

Of course the Access Control Plan (ACP) drew much of the usual crowd; John Haines, Karen Price, Hal Sundin, Cheryl Cain, Tony Rosa and Terry Stark.  While many complained that there is still no dialog between Council and the opponents of the ACP and/or the bridge, both Council and the group, most of which are part of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue (C2SGA) seemed to be amenable to sitting down, possibly over a bowl of spaghetti –with proper public notice of course – and further discussing matters.  Of course there is always the phone – all of the City Council contact information is available on the City’s website:  http://www.cogs.us/council/contact.htm

And Councilor Bershenyi’s Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-Bershenyi-City-council-news/485499551498590?fref=ts

And of course – there is this blog – which welcomes comments and guest contributions.

Terry Stark raised a good point – one that I hope to address more satisfactorily than I have in the past – and that is:  Show me the facts that the ACP will help – or at least not damage – the local economy and local businesses.   Stay tuned.

Still there is a call for a Transportation Master plan.  Since I am such a new member of the Transportation Commission, I don’t feel qualified to comment other than to remind everyone that you are welcome to come to the City of Glenwood Springs Transportation Commission meetings.  The next one is Tuesday, May 7th, at 7:30 a.m. in the Engineering Department conference room on the 2nd floor of City Hall.  BYOC (Bring your own coffee . . . I learned that my first meeting . . .)

While I am on the subject of Boards and Commissions – here is a GOLDEN opportunity for you to be involved in your community . . .  The Planning and Zoning Commission is looking for two community members to serve as alternates on the Planning Commission.  We meet monthly and sometimes hold a work session as well.  It does require a commitment of time, but you will be making a valuable contribution to the community!  Contact me at 379-4849 or ktrauger@rof.net if you want more information.

One more reminder – a design charrette (fancy French term for meeting where everyone can comment and participate) for the Confluence area will be held May 21st through 23rd.  This is a very vital piece of our town and your recommendations, input, comments are critical.  More information will be forthcoming shortly.

Stay tuned as well for an update on the Grand Avenue Bridge project . . .

Spring is upon us in Glenwood Springs. And what a glorious time it is!   Here’s to a renewed energy toward cooperation, consensus building and moving forward.  There is a season . . . and a time for everything under Heaven . . .  and our time is now.

Fear, Facts and Frustration

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

Have you ever had this happen to you?  You are sound asleep in the middle of the night and something wakes you up . . . and then the good ‘ol brain kicks into gear.  At two or three in the morning it is rarely the rational, logical brain, but more often the fearful brain that takes normally mundane issues and turns them into insurmountable obstacles.  When that happens, these problems rarely resolve by tossing and turning and agonizing over worst case scenarios.  I simply lose sleep with no sensible solution to any of my perceived hurdles and what is worse, my tossing and turning affects my husband and things snowball creating not only a miserable night but a lousy day for two people due to lack of sleep.

For me, a better solution is to quietly get out of bed, sometimes make a pot of coffee and try to engage my coherent brain and tackle the issues.  For me this process starts with identifying and naming the real problems.  Next comes some brainstorming about potential solutions, both purely reasonable and totally off-the-wall. What usually follows is research.  I need to understand the problem before moving forward with a decision.  Sometimes this process is short. Often middle-of-the-night-issues become non-issues when my rational brain kicks in.

Fear

Attending last Thursday’s City Council meeting was a little like waking up in the middle of the night with a million thoughts and fears running rampant.  Currently we seem to be a town paralyzed by fear.  This is not a new occurrence.  This is part of Glenwood’s history. We want to do it right . . . or perfectly . . . or not at all.  Usually we end up with “not at all.”

Some concerns voiced at last Thursday’s meeting  are absolutely prudent,  some are irrational or over stated in my opinion and some have been addressed and resolved but just keep sneaking back in.   Do not misunderstand.  I am not advocating rushing headlong into decisions without proper consideration, understanding, thought and due diligence.  But it is time to name and identify the fears and deal with them.

Some of the fears, concerns and questions broached at the City Council meeting – or since –  include:

  • Traffic will be doubled and tripled if a new bridge is built without a bypass
  • Traffic speed will be increased throughout Grand Avenue turning it into another I-70 corridor
  • The proposed bridge will be an L.A. style off-ramp
  • The bridge does not fit with the history and surroundings of Glenwood
  • The town cannot survive without a bridge for two months
  • The NEPA process has been circumvented by CDOT
  • Many local businesses will close and be replaced by marijuana shops and tattoo parlors
  • Tourism will decline
  • Oil and gas trucks will speed down Grand Avenue
  • City Council is disregarding work by prior councils
  • There is no comprehensive plan for transportation
  • Grand Avenue is doomed to be a mass transit corridor
  • Has CDOT segmented this project by separating the bridge project from the ACP and from a potential bypass?
  • Is this something that can or should be decided by a vote of citizens?
  • Exactly what powers does CDOT have and what triggers them
  • Delays in the ACP could cause additional cost to the city to update traffic studies and restart the public process
  • Could the “police powers” that CDOT states they have make the IGA null and void
  • Who has control over the traffic light sequences throughout Grand Avenue?
  • No one will use an “Underground tunnel” for pedestrians in the middle of Grand between 7th and 8th
  • CDOT is going to do whatever it wants no matter what Glenwood does

Identify the problem

So what is at the heart of this alarm?  It is time to name them.

  • Pedestrian/bicycle safety
  • Economic impact on merchants and businesses
  • Environmental impact
  • Financial ramifications to the entire city
  • Safety concerns about the bridge
  • Preservation of the history of Glenwood Springs
  • Glenwood’s image and branding
  • Volume of traffic
  • Loss of local control

The subjects named above, and there may be more, are all absolutely legitimate issues and Glenwood’s citizens are right to be concerned and to ask questions and look for reasonable answers.   However, in looking for these answers some fact cannot be pushed aside.

Facts

  • The State of Colorado, through Colorado Department of Transportation controls SH 82 from I-70 through Glenwood Springs, over Independence Pass to the juncture with Highway 24 between Leadville and Buena Vista
  • Access to SH 82 (including all of Grand Avenue) is currently governed by the Colorado Access Code http://www.coloradodot.info/business/permits/accesspermits/references/601_1_accesscode_march2002_.pdf/view
  • The Grand Avenue Bridge project scope and need is limited to the south side of Colorado River (downtown Glenwood Springs) and the connection to I-70 on the north.
  • Under the NEPA process, if the agency is uncertain whether significant impacts are expected, an EA (Environmental Assessment) is prepared to determine if there are significant environmental effects.  The findings of the EA may lead to an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) .  http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf
  • City Council has requested that intersections at 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th remain full movement and signalized under the draft ACP
  • Neither the bridge or the ACP process is over
  • The City of Glenwood Springs has a Comprehensive Plan that includes transportation.  http://www.cogs.us/departments/community/Forms/GlenwoodSpringsCompPlan2011.pdf

Frustration

I am frustrated on many different levels, which is why writing this week has been so difficult and I will cover in more depth in a later post.  But perhaps what frustrates me most right now is that there is a pervasive perception that there is no community support for either a new bridge or the ACP. It is true that those opposed have been vocal, but in my conversations with people around town, there are many who feel that a new bridge would or could have a positive impact – depending on design.  Many also feel that a Access Control Plan would give the city some say in access along Grand Avenue which is better than none.  Why are they not writing letters to the editor or showing up to meetings?   I wish I knew.  Perhaps there is not the fervor that those against have.   Perhaps they feel that their voice is represented by many on City Council.  Perhaps they are intimidated by the process. Perhaps it is simply easier to be against something than for it.  There have been some positive suggestions made by several citizens, including Sumner Schachter, Steve Smith and others.  Those will also be explored in a later post . . . as this one has run on too long . . .

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered tragic losses this week.  Remembering those in Boston, MA; West, TX and now at MIT.

 

Seeking Understanding

Tuesday evening’s Town Hall meeting played to a packed house. While the initial intention was to be a forum for discussion on the Grand Avenue Bridge, it morphed, my guess – probably due to the feedback from the Focus Groups – to include the Access Control Plan and the Bypass/Alternate route. Hosted by The Chamber Resort Association and the Downtown Development Authority and moderated by Clark Anderson with the Sonoran Institute, panelists included Jim Charlier of Charlier Associates, Inc.; Joe Elsen, CDOT Program Engineer; John Haines, Garfield County citizen and property owner; and Dan Roussin CDOT Region 3 Permit Unit Manager.

I am certain that the Glenwood Post Independent will cover all of the basics and major points – and I may throw in my two cents on several of them later, but I want to focus on two issues that seemed to be somewhat of a recurrent theme throughout the evening. One is that of citizen involvement and participation and the other is information about the process of transportation planning which is new territory to me as well.

I commend the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue for caring enough to form a fairly cohesive grass-roots group comprised of interested parties that are residents and business owners of Glenwood Springs as well as some residents and interested parties that live outside of the city limits. They have been able to present their message in perhaps a more concise style than some of the rest of us have succeeded in doing. Sometimes real change begins with groups such as this.

To be truly effective, however involves more than rhetoric and appearing at public meetings reiterating the same oration to roughly the same group of people. So how do you effect change and make your voice heard? In Steven Covey’s book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, habit five is “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The prayer of St. Francis has a similar phrase, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek …to be understood, as to understand.” The fact is that in order to achieve change we must understand the system and be able to work within that system. We may not like or trust state governmental agencies but in order to make changes and get the desired result, we must understand and play by their rules. We may not like the bureaucracy imposed by working with a municipality, but it is a process that is in place for a reason – at least most of the time.

I need to throw in a bit of a disclaimer here. I am not a fan of big government; less is more as far as I am personally concerned. However, I understand that in order to try to make a difference, I must learn about and seek to understand the procedures and protocol used by whatever entity I am dealing with. This drives me to more involvement with these groups, which actually furthers my knowledge. It ends up being rather circular. The more I understand the more involved I become and the more trust develops. I understand that many people have neither the time nor inclination to do this. It is simply not their cup of tea. Nevertheless, as citizens, it behooves us to have a basic understanding of how government works.

So, to that end, I would like to suggest at least some reading material to understand the basic processes. The first is a handbook prepared by the State of Oregon entitled, When Main Street is a Highway. This material has been recommended by several people and it is a very good reference. http://www.oregon.gov/lcd/tgm/docs/mainstreet.pdf

Another is a booklet done through Project for Public Spaces, Inc. titled How to Engage Your Transportation Authority.
http://www.pps.org/pdf/bookstore/How_to_Engage_Your_Transportation_Agency_AARP.pdf

For those with an interest in Dan Burden’s perspective, his work is all over the internet, at Project for Public Spaces and his own organization, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute: http://www.walklive.org

I would encourage you to take a look at “CDOT’s 2035 Statewide Transportation Plan”: http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/statewide-planning/documents/2035-plan-technical-reports/2035%20State%20Highway%20Technical%20Report.pdf

And CDOT’s Grand Avenue Bridge site: http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge

Information on the Access Control Plan can be found here: http://www.cogs.us/transpo/ACP/

And to understand the City of Glenwood, check out the “Corridor Optimization Plan”: http://www.ci.glenwood-springs.co.us/departments/publicworks/Engineering/10-12-14%20Final%20SH%2082%20COP.pdf

And the ”City of Glenwood Spring Long Range Transportation Plan 2003-2030”:
http://www.ci.glenwood-springs.co.us/departments/publicworks/Engineering/10-12-14%20Final%20SH%2082%20COP.pdf

And of course, there is the City of Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan: http://cogs.us/departments/community/Forms/GlenwoodSpringsCompPlan2011.pdf

I realize this is more reading than many are willing or able to do, but, as I am learning, transportation planning is a very complex issue. Last night I also heard several people say that they did not think they have received answers to questions they have posed. I would suggest a couple strategies. One is to make sure you are asking the people who can give you the answer. I have had great results asking questions directly to CDOT representatives, to City Staff and to City Council representatives. Don’t rely on your neighbor’s interpretation of what they read in the newspaper or on some blog. Go directly to the source. Keep in mind that these are really busy folks, so please allow a reasonable time for a response – and keep your requests respectful. If you still do not feel that you have an answer, please let me know. As a member of the City’s Transportation commission and the Planning Commission, I am committed to trying to understand the needs of the community and working within the system to achieve them.

Finally, regarding citizen involvement, I will say again what I said at the Town Hall meeting;

    Many City Boards and Commissions go begging for people to serve.

It is both a great way to learn and to serve your community. If the time commitment is just too great, consider attending a meeting of a board or commission that interests you.

At last night’s meeting, Pam Szedelyi stated that citizens are not allowed to speak at these meetings. Although I knew that was not the case for the Planning Commission, I must admit, I was not sure of the protocol for the other boards and commissions. I have since confirmed that the Transportation Commission also allows citizen questions and comments during their regular meetings. I would be the first to agree with Pam that a true dialog is not always easy in these meetings. There are a couple of reasons this might be true. Commissions like the Planning Commission are quasi-judicial in nature and must adhere to a more regulated procedure. Other boards and commission meet in the morning or sometimes in the evening. Since these are volunteer boards, the citizens that serve on them often have jobs or family obligations that require a limited meeting time.

Everyone is always welcome to attend city board and commission meetings. Here is a link to the dates and times of each board/commission. http://cogs.us/boards/2010_MeetingDates.pdf

However, I can only speak to the protocol for addressing the Planning Commission and the Transportation Commission.

For the Planning Commission: Comments are taken near the beginning of every regular meeting from people who wish to comment on an item not on the agenda. No need to sign up – just show up. Due to the length of the agenda, we may limit the length of time you can speak, but honestly, that rarely happens. We also take public comments during the Public Hearings for any item the Commission is considering. A caveat for the Planning Commission: Commissioners may not talk with you (either by telephone, by email or in person) about an item that is coming to them for a decision or recommendation to Council. To do this could cause a commissioner to be forced to recuse themselves from that item. If in doubt, please give Community Development a call – 384-6411. For the work sessions, simply come and talk to us – but double check with staff at the above number since we do not always have a work session. Agendas and minutes are posted on the web site http://cogs.us/boards/PandZ/agenda_minutes_2013.htm

For the Transportation Commission: This commission always has a very full agenda so it is recommended that, if you would like to come to ask questions or talk to the commission about a specific topic , call or email Rosa Silver at 970-384-6437 or rosa.silver@cogs.us and request some time on the agenda. If there are several people that would like to talk to the commission about a specific topic, then it may be possible to schedule an additional meeting to accommodate this need. As I mentioned before, due to the limited meeting time and length of agenda, you may only have 3 to 5 minutes to speak during a regular meeting. However, just because there is not a great deal of time for dialog – as in an extended exchange of ideas – it does not mean these volunteer board members are not listening or considering what is being presented. Any questions, if not able to be immediately answered, will be followed up on by a staff and/or commission member.

In talking with city staff and at least one council member, we are going to try to work on some additional ways that may make it easier for the dialog that the public wants and deserves with elected officials and the appointed boards and commissions. The more we truly seek to communicate, the more we will understand.