GLENWOOD SPRINGS - The city could get two new bridges as part of the Colorado Department of Transportation's plans to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge on Highway 82.
Project planners are looking at whether some of the allotted $59 million in state Bridge Enterprise Fund dollars being used for the new highway bridge could go to improve or replace the separate pedestrian bridge that connects the north and south sides of downtown Glenwood Springs.
Craig Gaskill, a consulting engineer working with CDOT on the bridge project, informed Glenwood Springs City Council last week that it's possible the pedestrian bridge could qualify for funding as part of the deal.
"It does seem to meet the project criteria to enhance multi-modal connections," Gaskill said during a Nov. 15 work session with council members.
Maintaining a pedestrian crossing over the railroad tracks, the Colorado River and Interstate 70 that is separate from vehicle traffic has been a key goal in conversations with the project's local stakeholders group, Gaskill said.
The general public, in comments offered at a series of open houses and through other forums over the past year, has also indicated it prefers a separate pedestrian bridge.
"If it can get us something better than we have now, sure," Councilman Todd Leahy said. Other council members supported the idea as well.
Leahy suggested that the new highway bridge, coupled with a Highway 82 access control plan recommendation to do away with the traffic signal at Eighth and Grand, might accomplish some other goals for the downtown area.
"For the 20 years that I've been here, I've heard, 'Gee, it would be nice to get our downtown back,'" Leahy said of the oft-stated concerns about highway traffic detracting from the downtown.
By possibly eliminating the traffic light at Eighth, Leahy offered that heavy trucks coming onto and off the bridge would not have to speed up and slow down, which is a major source of highway noise.
Also, if the left turn lane from southbound Grand onto Eighth Street were eliminated, the bridge width in the 700 block of Grand could be narrower, Leahy also suggested.
"The opportunity for a narrower bridge there would make a lot of people in that stretch happy," Leahy said.
The draft highway access control plan recommends doing away with two downtown traffic signals on Grand Avenue, either at Eighth and 10th, or at Ninth and 11th. A signalized pedestrian crossing could be kept at Eighth, however.
Councilman Mike Gamba also asked the bridge planners to reconsider keeping the pedestrian ramp attached to or near the side of the new highway bridge in the 700 block.
The other option being studied to provide handicapped access to the pedestrian bridge would involve a long, switch-back type of structure taking up the better part of two blocks on the north side of Seventh Street.
Gaskill said the stakeholders group has talked about some of the limitations with the current pedestrian bridge access, primarily at the south end.
A wider footbridge with better access, and design features that would complement the new highway bridge design remains the goal, he said.
In September, CDOT officials recommended a preferred highway bridge alignment from Grand Avenue on the south side of the river, curving to the west and landing on the north side of the river and I-70 near Sixth and Laurel.
The existing bridge travels straight across the river to the intersection of Sixth and Pine, next to the Hotel Colorado. The preferred alignment would remove highway traffic from the two-block section of Sixth, between Pine and Laurel, and provide a more direct connection to I-70.
Project planners are still working on a preferred intersection design at Sixth and Laurel, which may or may not include a roundabout. A preferred alternative will be identified when the formal Environmental Assessment process gets under way early next year.
Updated information on the latest bridge design recommendations will be presented at the next public open house, which is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2013.
The project team, including officials with both CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, have also been looking at different designs for both the highway and pedestrian bridges. It will use the input from the stakeholders group and city officials to come up with design recommendations.
The various design options can be found online, at www.sh82grandavenuebridge.com.