Glenwood traffic: how fast will it slow? |

Glenwood traffic: how fast will it slow?

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRIINGS ” Traffic congestion on Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs is likely to get worse faster than previously predicted in a new study that seeks to identify the range of solutions to the problem.

At least, that’s the feeling of some members of the city’s Transportation Commission, which on Tuesday morning reviewed a draft copy of the study.

Using Colorado Department of Transportation estimates, it projects 2 percent annual traffic growth through 2030 along the corridor. That would mean traffic on the Grand Avenue Bridge would rise from about 29,000 vehicles per day now to nearly 48,000. Traffic on Grand between 20th and 22nd streets would grow from 31,700 to 52,000.

Transportation commissioner Floyd Diemoz said the 2 percent estimate could be low. Commissioner Dave Alcott agreed, based on information previously considered by the commission.

“We’ve looked at the data, and it’s three and a half percent (annual growth), there’s no disputing,” he said.

Even if the 2 percent figure is right, Diemoz said, “it’s monumental, the amount of traffic we will have in 20 years.”

City Council member Chris McGovern, a Transportation Commission member, also questioned the study’s estimate that only 19 percent of peak-hour morning traffic is passing through town. She thinks it’s higher than that, and said the study appears to making use of a 2004 traffic count that she says was poorly conducted.

“If that was the survey they’re using, it’s invalid material,” she said.

The new study has identified 22 possible alternatives for improving travel along the Highway 82 corridor. 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 study also evaluates each alternative based on factors such as effectiveness, cost, environmental impact and safety, but leaves it to the city to decide how much weight should be given to each factor. The next step will be to conduct an environmental analysis of several top alternatives and identify a preferred one, while seeking public input along the way.

City engineer Mike McDill said the study tries to look at a large range of options, but it’s impossible to cover all possibilities. For example, another could involve building a tunnel from I-70 that would bypass the city altogether. But that would cost even more than the proposed route on the edge of Lookout Mountain, a proposal McDill believes is probably cost-prohibitive.

He and Diemoz also questioned the range of cost estimates for a new road along the railroad corridor, which the study says could run anywhere from $25 million to $95 million.

“I’m not sure how they’d get down to $25 (million),” Diemoz said.

Said McDill, “Me neither. I’m not sure how they’d get down to $95 (million).”

Diemoz said what’s important is that the city take action after its current round of studies, rather than letting them gather dust as have numerous others focusing on the problem of Highway 82, going back to 1973.

“Here we are, 34 years, a third of a century away, and we still haven’t solved it,” he said.

City manager Jeff Hecksel said his fear is that the city will spend two or three years building a consensus on how to solve the problem, only to have some “aggrieved party” complain to a state lawmaker about the proposed solution and jeopardize the chances for receiving Colorado Department of Transportation funding.

“Pretty soon the project gets canned because somebody didn’t get their way, and CDOT’s not going to touch it,” he said.

Transportation commissioner Don “Hooner” Gillespie said it helps that Russell George, a Rifle resident, now is director of CDOT.

“He could be a key factor” in helping move forward with a solution, Gillespie said.

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