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.

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.

Grand Avenue Bridge Town Hall Meeting April 2

CHAMBER, DDA HOST TOWN HALL MEETING
TO DISCUSS GRAND AVENUE BRIDGE: MYTHS, REALITIES & OPPORTUNITES

Glenwood Springs, CO…”Grand Avenue Bridge: Myths, Realities & Opportunities” is the subject of a town hall meeting hosted by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (GSCRA) and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on Tuesday, April 2 beginning at 6 pm at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The meeting will be facilitated by Clark Anderson, Director of the Western Colorado Legacy Program for the Sonoran Institute.

The town hall meeting panel consists of Joe Elsen, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Project Engineer for the Grand Avenue Bridge; Zane Znamenacek, CDOT Traffic Program Manager and a resource for the Access Control Plan; Jim Charlier, President of Charlier Associates, a DDA consultant and a nationally-recognized transportation planning professional; and John Haines, Chairman of “Citizens to Save Grand Avenue,” a group of citizens who have raised concerns about the Grand Avenue Bridge project and Access Control Plan.

According to GSCRA Board Chair Michael McCallum, “The chamber’s objective is to provide our businesses and the public with accurate information about the bridge replacement project. We are collaborating with the DDA to host a meeting that encourages public dialogue with a panel of outside and community resources. We want to provide facts and information to help people understand the issues, and to explore solutions and opportunities.”

Executive Director of the DDA Leslie Bethel says, “As part of our overarching goal to enhance the downtown experience for residents and guests through infrastructure, beautification and

Now is your chance to be heard!!

If you are interested in attending and contributing to Grand Avenue Bridge Focus Group meetings on Tuesday, March 26th, please contact Manette Anderson at manette.c.anderson@gmail.com Phone is 379-2816. This is your chance to talk to someone in a small group setting to share your thoughts on the Grand Avenue Bridge proposal. Groups will be meeting all day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hotel Denver. I understand each group will be about an hour long. The information gathered from these groups will be used at the Town Hall Meeting, Tuesday April 2nd at 6 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Don’t miss on this opportunity to make your voice heard.

” . . .the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Grand Avenue looking south from the old wooden bridge - Courtesy of Frontier Historical Museum. Please do not reproduce.

Grand Avenue looking south from the old wooden bridge – Courtesy of Frontier Historical Museum. Please do not reproduce.

When I started Our Town Glenwood Springs a month ago, I began it more as a way for me to clarify my thoughts on things that are going on in Glenwood Springs. Writing, for me, is a way to analyze information and organize my view. This process has been interesting. It has garnered some attention that I didn’t really anticipate from entities like City Council and the Glenwood Post Independent. I really appreciate the recognition of my effort – and truly that is all it is – just an effort to try to bring some facts to people. I love the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” This blog does not address any national crisis – although there are several worthy of addressing – but this blog seeks to stick to the local, Glenwood Springs issues. However, like Lincoln, I am also a firm believer that the people, when given the facts, with make appropriate decisions based on those facts.

Another great statesman, John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” This is what has driven me to spend many hours and sleepless nights, reading and researching. Although I have been a resident of Glenwood Springs for nearly 45 years, I wanted to step out of my prefabricated interpretations and, dare I say it, prejudices – to try to find the facts and separate them from assumption and speculation and misinformation that seem to abound. Predictions of blight and vermin infested vacated downtown buildings are no more accurate than being able to return to the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s where Grand Avenue was an idyllic boulevard with trees forming a canopy shading vehicles traveling to and from the mining town of Aspen and points in between.

Yesterday, citizens of Glenwood Springs, along with business owners, and other interested individuals had the chance to get a glimpse of the height and width of the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge structure. Last night was the first of two planned evenings of public hearings regarding the proposed Access Control Plan. We also learned that the Chamber Resort Association is working to get a mediated “town hall” type of meeting together so that City Council can engage in a dialog with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders over the big three; the bridge, the ACP and a bypass. I certainly hope that the Chamber is able to bring that meeting to fruition.

I found one aspect of yesterday’s meetings very encouraging. The respectful and reasonable comments made by both the citizens commenting and Council was heartening. Yes, I did hear some derogatory remarks generally muttered under breath or for the benefit of someone seated or standing nearby but this was, in my opinion, a far more beneficial assemblage than I have witnessed.

Not unlike other meetings, most were concerned about the impact of the bridge and the ACP on the downtown. This is not to say that other areas were not considered or discussed, but much of the comment involved the downtown area. Some feared that the larger bridge would create a tunnel or canyon effect on the area of Grand Avenue from 7th to 8th Streets and that businesses would be ‘sacrificed” for the bridge. There was concern about emergency access and the potential of closing alleys. There were questions about the real need for a new bridge. Terry Stark thought the issue of a bridge should be brought to a vote of the citizens of Glenwood Springs, but others maintained that the bridge is a regional issue. The scale and mass of the proposed bridge was questioned. Manette Anderson stated that she thought a 3-D model was needed, sooner than later, to help the community visualize the bridge. Several members of City Council agreed and said they had hoped to see that prior to the meeting.

Prior to the Access Control presentation by Michelle Hansen a traffic consultant with Stolfus and Associates, Councilor Todd Leahy asked Michelle to explain the how SH 82 through Glenwood Springs is currently managed under the States Access Control Code. Michelle explained that under the current state code, adopted in 1981 and revised once in 2002, the only access guaranteed to any parcel is a right-in-right-out access. If development/redevelopment of a property occurs and it increases traffic to that property by 20 percent, then the owner/developer must file for an access permit. She emphasized that the current Access Code does not take into consideration land use and it is very rigid in its application. She also stated that it is not equitable as access is granted on a first-come-first-served basis. The advantage to adopting an ACP is that it gives the City a say in how things are managed. While it is an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) and legally binding, it can be amended. She stated that in Colorado State Transportation Region 3, of which Glenwood is a part, five requests for amendments have been requested and all five requests were approved.

During her comments to Council after the presentation, Karen Price stated that it was very helpful to know what the existing policy was. She also mentioned that she spoke with Chief of Police Terry Wilson and he explained that emergency access including firefighting procedure would not be much different with a new bridge than it was now. She said she appreciated his explanation. However, she wondered what the impact of the new bridge and the ACP would have on community events like the Strawberry Days Parade, Downtown Farmer’s Market. She also wondered whether adequate consideration had been given to ADA issues.

Bob Andre and John Burg stated they thought the process that had been undertaken for the bridge and the ACP was good. Mr. Burg emphasized that pedestrian movement must be considered particularly in the downtown. He stated that downtown Glenwood was special and he knew the DDA was working to make sure key issues were addressed.

Chris McGovern spoke twice, once regarding the bridge and the second time regarding the ACP. Perhaps she will forward me her comments on the bridge for use in this blog. Regarding the ACP she questioned the wisdom of the use of U-turns throughout town as a solution due to the fact that many people misjudge the turning radius of their vehicles. She encouraged more public meetings as planned by the Chamber.

Councilor Dave Sturges mentioned that he was not convinced that the ACP was a better option than the current Access Code and it would allow the City more say. He is very concerned with the impact on 8th, 9th and 10th streets and sees this as an opportunity to enhance the downtown experience for visitors and residents alike.

County resident John Haines mentioned that he talked with Governor Hickenlooper briefly in Snowmass on Wednesday evening and was given the name of a contact at the Governor’s office for further discussion regarding the Grand Avenue Bridge as he did not feel the Governor received both sides of the story from his brief meeting with City Council.

Members of City Council emphasized that while they are unanimous in their opinion that a new bridge is needed and that the proposed alignment is the best, many aspects of the bridge are not set in stone, including the design and aesthetics and the 8th Street configuration and the pedestrian bridge. They also stated that, regarding the ACP, they are still gathering information and listening to comments and suggestions and will weigh the concerns, considerations and suggestions very carefully before making a final decision. They encouraged the community to continue to give them feedback via email and Councilor Bershenyi restated that he is happy to meet with anyone for coffee and discussion.

With this blog, I simply wanted to get some information out about the comments from last night’s meeting. If you feel I have not accurately represented your comments, or you wish to add additional comments, please feel free to add to the discussion in the form of a comment. As an editorial comment I wish to say that this City Council faces some of the most burdensome and potentially divisive issues to come before this body for many years. We, as citizens, rather than criticizing and condemning them should be doing everything we can to assist them in making the best, most sagacious decisions possible for our community. I think we are moving in that direction. Let’s continue to keep the discussion positive and thoughtful.