Glenwood’s Grand Avenue bridge work moving back to front burner | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood’s Grand Avenue bridge work moving back to front burner

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Possible replacement or at least a major overhaul of the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs is about to return to the forefront of public debate.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has formed a local Project Leadership Team to begin the process of determining whether to replace, or somehow redesign the Grand Avenue Bridge to better accommodate Highway 82 traffic.

The bridge, while structurally sound, has been on the state’s list of “functionally obsolete” structures for some time because of its narrow driving surface. Although the bridge is striped for four lanes of traffic, it fails to meet state standards for a four-lane bridge.

Colorado’s FASTER bill, signed by former Gov. Bill Ritter two years ago, provided new funding for highway safety and bridge projects around Colorado. Among the projects quickly moving up the priority list is the Grand Avenue Bridge.

“We’re still in the early stages, and are in the process of hiring a consultant to lead the project design,” CDOT spokesperson Nancy Shanks said. “Once we have the consultant on board, that will launch a very extensive, very inclusive process that will involve a great deal of public input.”

The process will eventually entail a formal Environmental Assessment over the next few years, from which a preferred alternative will be selected and further evaluated. Again, there will be ample opportunity for public input through that process, Shanks said.

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Even after that, actual bridge work is not likely to begin until at least 2014, she said.

But it’s the first time the question of what to do with the bridge will be seriously discussed in more than a decade. Among the solutions could be an overhaul, or potential replacement and even realignment of the bridge and Highway 82 through Glenwood Springs.

The last time a bridge-widening project was proposed in the late 1990s, the design was ultimately rejected by city officials because of its impact on businesses in the 700 block of Grand Avenue from the proposed wider bridge platform.

For its part in the latest go-around, the Glenwood Springs City Council will begin discussing its goals related to the Grand Avenue Bridge project when it meets for its regular twice-monthly meeting Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

“I think the discussion is to simply reaffirm where we were headed six months ago, and try to make sure it’s done in a way that best serves the interests of Glenwood Springs,” Mayor Matt Steckler said of Thursday’s council discussion.

Steckler didn’t rule out the possibility of some of those discussions from earlier this year being revisited. That could include a March resolution that any potential realignment of Highway 82 steer clear of the confluence area to the west of the existing downtown. That area has been envisioned for eventual re-development as an extension of the downtown commercial area.

The resolution passed unanimously, just before three new members joined the council after the April election. This will be the first time new council members Ted Edmonds, Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba will have a chance to formally weigh in on the issue.

“We are now looking at the prospect of a new bridge in a relatively short time period, perhaps the next five years or so,” Steckler said. “And we need to participate as much as possible in that.”

In addition to CDOT engineers and other representatives, the Project Leadership Team includes local citizens and elected officials. In May, Glenwood Springs City Council appointed former mayor Bruce Christensen as the city government’s representative on the design team. Christensen has long been a proponent of leaving the Highway 82 alignment on Grand Avenue.

The ultimate goal, Steckler said, is to ensure that the bridge work is done in a way that meets the community’s needs and causes the fewest disruptions.

“I think we all want to see that the bridge is built in an attractive way, and with an effort to not impact the businesses along our main street as much as possible,” Steckler said. “That will be the objective anyway.”

According to Shanks, the Project Leadership Team has met twice so far, once in July and again in early August.

The design effort will use what she termed a “context sensitive solutions” process, which is what was used for the Highway 82 four-lane design through Snowmass Canyon, she said.

It’s a way of ensuring that what is designed and ultimately built encompasses the environmental and aesthetic goals expressed through the process, Shanks said.

“It’s a way of making sure it fits in,” she said.

CDOT is currently in the process of finalizing its contract with the design consultants, for which the firms Jacobs Engineering Group, Tsiouvaras Simmons Holderness and AMEC Earth Environmental have been selected.

Once the initial design work is done, the more involved Environmental Assessment process will begin, probably sometime next year.

jstroud@postindependent.com