Glenwood Springs may backtrack on South Midland design

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Drivers work to avoid the pot holes popping up on South Midland Avenue near Sopris Elementary School. Glenwood Springs City Council is debating what level of design, and more importantly costs, to approve for a rebuild of the roughly three-quarter-mile section of deteriorating roadway.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

If Glenwood Springs City Council goes for anything near a $10 million rebuild of South Midland Avenue, Mayor Michael Gamba says he’s done lobbying for state and federal funding to build the South Bridge project.

“We can’t spend stupid money, and we can get this done for half the price, in my opinion,” Gamba said at the regular Thursday council meeting, asking for yet another council work session to discuss the level of design and costs to approve for the Midland project.

“There have been some inferences that I’m supporting partial construction, and that’s not the case,” he said.

Instead, he said he believes the city can rebuild the roughly three-quarter-mile section of roadway serving the south Glenwood neighborhoods for about $4 million, with a 30-year lifespan. That would eliminate some elements such as a full sidewalk and other features that Gamba said have ballooned the project cost.

If the city is to spend $8 million to $10 million on South Midland, Gamba said he sees no reason to continue pursuing the massive South Bridge project, with a price tag of around $45 million, because the city wouldn’t have enough money left to cover its match, he said.

“The city does not spend money wisely, that’s my concern,” he said.

Council, following a work session last month that Gamba and Councilman Todd Leahy were not able to attend, directed city staff to move toward final design for a $9.52 million Midland rebuild.

That cost would include a 6-foot-wide sidewalk along the stretch, rockfall mitigation, a roundabout at Four Mile and Airport roads with a new driveway access to Sopris Elementary School, a realigned 90-degree intersection at Old Cardiff Bridge Road, city electrical rerouting and an 18-inch water line replacement.

Council agreed on a 5-1 vote Thursday to continue the discussion at a follow-up work session in March. Councilman Shelley Kaup opposed the move, saying it’s time to move forward with the full design and deliver on a key component of the voter-approved extension of the city’s special acquisitions and improvements tax last year.

“This is a very important project, and that’s a major thoroughfare for Glenwood Springs that serves the south Glenwood neighborhoods,” Kaup said, adding there was a strong sentiment in the April 2017 city election in favor of that and several other public infrastructure projects to be funded out of the A&I tax.

If cost-cutting is necessary at some point, council can make those decisions at that time, she said.

Councilman Jonathan Godes, who as the Ward 5 (south Glenwood) representative on council has been outspoken in favor of rebuilding Midland to full city street standards, said he could go along with another work session discussion. But he said he remains adamant that a full rebuild is needed.

What doesn’t get completed now as part of the overall project will only cost the city more later, he said.

“This isn’t a conversation about South Bridge, it’s about three-quarters of a mile of road that serves as the only link to the people who live in my neighborhood,” Godes said.

Paying for a partial fix now, especially without replacing the aging water line, could prove to be wasted money in a few years if the city has to go back in and replace that line when it fails, he said.

A handful of residents from the Park West, Park East and Glenwood Park neighborhoods offered different opinions, some saying Midland needs to be fully built first and others saying South Bridge should dictate the future design for the south Midland stretch.

A proposed South Bridge, which would span over Roaring Fork River and connect Airport Road to Colorado Highway 82, is likely to require multiple funding partners include Garfield County, the state and possibly federal dollars.

Gamba said it’s worth another discussion now to talk about potential cost savings on the Midland project before the design process gets too far along. The follow-up work session could happen as soon as the March 1 council meeting, but might have to wait until March 15.