Council to rewrite resolution on rebuilding Glenwood bridge
September 17, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – City Council members readily agreed Thursday to rewrite a resolution that sets ground rules for the coming negotiations with state government over rebuilding the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs.
Councilman Todd Leahy wrote the draft resolution presented at the City Council meeting. It immediately drew criticism from three citizens concerned that the city was weakening its bargaining position, cutting off options for a Highway 82 bypass and setting the community up for a year of extreme construction impacts.
The resolution comes as the Colorado Department of Transportation opens talks with the city government about rebuilding the bridge, which is deemed substandard because of its narrow width.
To meet bridge standards, a new bridge would need 12-foot lanes rather than the nine-foot lanes of the bridge in place now, making the overall structure much wider. Bridge replacement plans proposed in 1998 also had the structure touching down at the Eighth Street intersection, placing the entire 700 block of Grand Avenue in the shadow of a superstructure.
“This bridge is going to ruin everything that you are trying to do downtown,” said Anthony Durrett, an attorney who owns a law office at Eighth and Colorado. “If you don’t rework this language, you’ll be putting the final nail in the coffin. It’s just not an effective bargaining position.”
Durrett endorsed the goals laid out in the resolution (see box), but said the preamble statements “give the farm away.”
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He suggested that council strike statements such as “CDOT owns the right-of-way, therefore has the right to build the bridge,” and “the new bridge is a standalone project not involving any other transportation issues that the city may want to negotiate.”
Leahy quickly conceded, saying, “There’s no hard feelings. Let’s get the words right.”
Other input came from Floyd Diemoz, who was a member of the citizen commission that guided design of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, and former Councilman Don Gillespie.
Diemoz was concerned that a multi-million bridge reconstruction would foreclose any potential possibility of building a highway bypass to divert traffic off Grand Avenue.
“If we build this bridge now, what happens to the alternate route? It ends up it’s gone,” Diemoz said.
He and Gillespie worried that a bridge construction project at the city’s transportation funnel point would shut commerce and tourism down for a year or longer.
“How do you handle traffic during construction?” Diemoz asked.
“CDOT policy is to do what the locals want, so use your clout,” said Gillespie. “Don’t let them take this town out of circulation for a year.”
Councilman Mike Gamba defended the draft resolution.
“We are not giving anything away with this resolution. The intent is to say we want to cooperate and get the best bridge we can for the city of Glenwood Springs,” Gamba said.
“If we cooperate with CDOT, we can address the concerns of length, width and aesthetics. This bridge is 10 years past its design life. While it could last a lot longer, at some point it will have to be replaced,” he said.
Calling the existing bridge “ugly,” Gamba said he’s heard that a suspension bridge could be built in its place, giving the city a more appealing focal point.
He also noted that the funding for this bridge project must be used to replace or improve the bridge in its existing location. It can’t be used to build a new bridge farther west.
After some attempts at editing the resolution on the spot, council members agreed to take the one-page document home, work up some possible changes, and then merge them into a new resolution during a work session.