Glenwood Springs consider providing $3M more for 27th Street underpasses
Construction bids came in roughly $6 million higher than anticipated
Glenwood Springs City Council is exploring options to increase funding for a project to build a pedestrian tunnel under Highway 82 led by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
During the council’s regular session March 17, council members met with RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship to discuss increasing the city’s project contribution from $750,000 to $3.75 million, accommodating for project bids coming in significantly higher than originally anticipated.
The 27th Street Underpass Project includes two underpasses at the intersection of 27th Street and Highway 82, adjacent to the RFTA Bus Rapid Transit station, city documents state.
The intersection experiences heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic, due partly to the communities west of Highway 82 using the bus station, Blankenship said.
In 2018, a cyclist was killed at the intersection after being struck by a motor vehicle.
Initially, the engineer’s estimate for the project was about $10 million; however, recent bids came in at about $15 million. Inflation, supply chain issues and labor force limitations are some of the factors contributing to increased costs.
Blankenship said RFTA could cover a portion of the increased costs, but the agency is asking Glenwood Springs to pitch in half of the increased amount, which is about $3 million.
“By putting in this improvement, it will streamline traffic and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists,” Blankenship said. “We want to know if this is a priority for the city as well.”
Some council members were initially opposed to the idea of providing the project additional funding.
Councilwoman Paula Stepp, upon hearing the total increased cost for the project was about $6 million, said the city could seek other options for increasing traffic safety at the 27th Street intersection.
“We could get a whole lot of police for $6 million,” Stepp said.
RFTA ridership dwindled during the pandemic, Council Member Ingrid Wussow said. Dedicating millions of dollars to a project for a bus station with declining riders isn’t a wise investment while the city is still working to fund South Bridge, which could benefit a larger percentage of the population, she added.
Blankenship responded that while ridership was down from 2019, the agency’s highest ridership year, ridership is likely to recover in 2022 as oil prices continue to rise.
Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman said the underpasses would be a significant improvement to traffic flows and pedestrian safety, but he couldn’t justify the expense when South Bridge remains underfunded.
Councilman Tony Hershey also said the added expense was too high.
“I’m a big supporter of public transit and buses,” Hershey said. “Unfortunately, I agree with Charlie, because I just don’t see where we can fit in the expenditure now.”
While not guaranteed, Blankenship said he could approach the RFTA board in April about loaning Glenwood Springs the additional money needed, but he didn’t want to put the idea forward without knowing whether City Council would be interested.
After some discussion about the possibility of a low-interest — or preferably no-interest — loan, Willman made a motion to direct city staff to explore financing opportunities with RFTA. Councilman Marco Dehm seconded the motion, which passed 5-2, with Hershey and Wussow voting against.
“I’m supportive of this,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “We are RFTA. This is really one hand having a conversation with the other.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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