Glenwood getting restless over Hwy. 82
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Some Glenwood Springs City Council members, tired of studies, think it’s time for the council to take a stand on the future alignment of Highway 82 through town.But others on the council advise patience in following the decision-making process outlined by the Colorado Department of Transportation.”Why don’t we lead?” asked frustrated council member Larry Beckwith Thursday during a work session in which council reviewed the findings of a study that looks at the range of alternatives for optimizing travel along Glenwood’s Highway 82 corridor.He and council members Dave Merritt and Kris Chadwick argued on behalf of the council identifying their preferred solution or at least some top choices for consideration by CDOT, Garfield County and the public.Mayor Bruce Christensen said he doesn’t think the council has the competence or authority to make the decision on its own.”I think that is something that you use the process for, and it evolves and I know that requires more patience,” he said.The recently completed corridor optimization study identifies 22 possible solutions to the problem of increasing congestion on Highway 82 in Glenwood. Considered on one extreme is simply adding traffic lights and readjusting their timing on the existing route along Grand Avenue, and on the other is building a $600 million, partially tunneled new route on the east side of town along Lookout Mountain. In between are suggestions such as four-laning Midland Avenue from 27th to Eighth streets, making use of the former railroad corridor east of the Roaring Fork River, and building a new Interstate 70/Highway 82 interchange at Devereux Road.The next step prescribed by CDOT is to create a corridor optimization plan. That involves evaluating various alternatives and seeking public opinion on them, and deciding on a preferred plan.Council members Chris McGovern said that whatever the council’s preferences now, it’s important to have public buy-in “so that when we start to move along we don’t have civil war in town.””There is a reason behind the process and that is to make it work,” she said.City engineer Mike McDill said that process also is the only way the city can tap state and federal funding through CDOT.”The process keeps CDOT on the hook and as soon as we deviate from the process it lets CDOT off the hook,” McDill said.Beckwith is frustrated by the city having to further study something that has been studied about 10 times since 1973, according to a count by city Transportation Commission member Floyd Diemoz.”Let’s choose something and get started instead of just going on and on and on,” Beckwith said.For some council members, that something presumably would involve making use of the railroad corridor, which the city long has eyed as a new route through town. However, some city residents oppose the idea, and Christensen has voiced his own reservations about it.There was little disagreement Thursday among council and Transportation Commission members on another matter – the corridor optimization study’s estimates that Highway 82 traffic volume will grow by an average of 2 percent a year and that weekday morning pass-through traffic averages 19 percent of all vehicles.Many city officials think the actual numbers are higher, and that underestimates might mislead CDOT about the severity of Glenwood’s problem. But McDill said whether the growth rate is 2 or 3 percent, it’s still a problem, and it’s just a question of how soon it will have to be addressed. Meanwhile, CDOT considers even the 19 percent pass-through traffic estimate to be a “huge number,” said Jim Hanson, one of the consultants who prepared the study.He said the data shows that the Highway 82 corridor is an important one for local travel, and at the same time there are a lot of cars “adding to that and mucking up local travel.”
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