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 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.

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