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Glenwood to take up Hwy. 82 bypass question

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentNew Castle's Scott Cannell and Laura Sugaski, of Carbondale, explore the confluence area near 7th Street and the Roaring Fork River Tuesday afternoon. A resolution before Glenwood Springs City Council on Thursday seeks to protect the area from consideration as a possible future Highway 82 bypass, in favor of redeveloping the area as an extension of downtown.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Glenwood Springs elected officials will take up a formal resolution on Thursday aimed at steering any future Highway 82 bypass options away from the Roaring Fork River confluence area, which is envisioned for future redevelopment.

But the resolution drafted by Councilman Russ Arensman stops short of identifying a preferred route for a bypass, should one eventually be determined to be in the city’s best interests.

“Initially we tried to sketch out a preferred alignment,” said Arensman, who sits as one of two council representatives on the city’s transportation commission. He has been working with commission members, as well as with Mayor Bruce Christensen, to present the resolution.

“I was convinced after a while in talking to people, that to do that was jumping ahead of things,” Arensman said. “We still need to reach community consensus, and that remains to be seen.”

What the resolution would do, if approved, is serve as a statement by the current city council that the confluence area is not where a new road should be built.

“It puts a stake in the sand that says, ‘here’s what we believe at this point in time,'” Arensman said, pointing out that a resolution is not binding on future city councils.

The confluence area is generally defined as running from the Colorado River up the east bank of the Roaring Fork River, including the RFTA corridor river trail, to 13th Street. A 2003 design study commissioned by the city looked at several redevelopment options to bring a mix of new commercial, residential and park uses to the area.

In addition, the proposed resolution would direct the city to begin evaluating the various traffic mitigation strategies contained in the recently adopted Highway 82 Corridor Optimization Plan as soon as possible. That plan is slated to be presented to the Colorado Transportation Commission later this month.

“The city shall proceed toward an in-depth assessment study under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of the neighborhood and environmental impacts of potential routes identified by [the corridor plan] for a local bypass or relocated Highway 82 alignment,” the resolution states.

While the confluence area would be off-limits, per the resolution, it allows that the river corridor south of 13th Street “shall be preserved for future study until construction of a local bypass or relocated Highway 82 alignment commences, or its use for those purposes is found to be not in the city’s best interests.”

Mayor Christensen admits the resolution partly accomplishes one item on his “bucket list” before he leaves office next month. Christensen is term-limited and will step down from city council after the April 5 election.

“The intent of those of us who have been trying to do this is to tie up some of the loose ends with the corridor plan,” said Christensen, who remains opposed to relocating Highway 82 away from the existing Grand Avenue corridor.

“The key to this is to say that we don’t want a realignment to conflict with future confluence development,” he said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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