Letter: Aspen needs to pony up for Glenwood bridge

The impending reconstruction of the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood poses a serious economic threat to the Roaring Fork Valley and Aspen. The Colorado Department of Transportation and Glenwood Springs have asked Aspen and Pitkin County to contribute to the project.

The view from Aspen seems to be, “Why should we pay?” This is the wrong response. All residents in the valley should ask, “How much do we need to pay to get the project completed very quickly, optimally at the speed the Twin Tunnels were rebuilt?” Problems associated with the project could crush the Roaring Fork Valley’s economy. Put differently, two years of congestion will be fabulous for Vail and Vail Resorts.

Aspenites are deluding themselves to believe otherwise. Former Mayor Mick Ireland ruminated recently that the construction will cause congestion “that only increased RFTA services can alleviate.” Really?

Apparently Ireland believes RFTA can deliver gasoline to the valley. It cannot. Nor can RFTA delivere the groceries to City Market, Whole Foods or other stores. Nor can the plumbers, electricians, carpenters and others who regularly trek from Silt and Rifle to the valley, especially Aspen, take RFTA to construction jobs.

Ireland and most other residents of the valley fail to understand the enormous problems construction will cause. Restaurants will have difficulty getting deliveries. Grocery stores, too, will experience delivery problems. The cost of bringing fuel to the valley will rise. Contractors will find key workers less willing to come upvalley. Hotels may find it more difficult to entice workers to make the long trip.

These new constraints will be reflected in even higher prices. Everyone living the valley — but especially those living in Aspen — will see price increases. Meantime, Aspen may become a no-go place to visit due to the congestion, except for those who have private planes or choose to pay United’s premium fares.

These constraints also may force some events to move, especially if there are construction delays, problems or just bad weather. The Grand Avenue Bridge reconstruction could give Aspen its own depression. If it does, those living in Aspen will find jobs harder to find and be paid less while paying more for everything.

Glenwood Springs has allocated $3 million to the project. Aspen’s government should step up and say, “How much do you need to do this really quickly?” Aspen should offer $10 million or more. It would be a bargain at twice the price.

Philip Verleger