Resolution stirs age-old Glenwood Springs downtown traffic debate
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A nonbinding resolution intended to protect the confluence area from a future highway bypass also serves to renew the discussion about solving traffic congestion along Grand Avenue, city council members say.
The council unanimously approved the resolution at its March 3 meeting.
The resolution is meant to put the current council members on record as wanting to preserve the confluence area for future redevelopment, without being constrained by a potential Highway 82 bypass or other major thoroughfare.
“This is purely a political statement from this council,” Councilman Leo McKinney said. “It could be overturned in six weeks [when at least two new city council members will take their seats].”
“By our indecision on this in the past, it is a decision,” outgoing City Council member Shelley Kaup said in response to several public comments criticizing the move.
“What we’ll end up if we don’t decide anything will be six lanes on Grand Avenue,” she said. “I think this shows a commitment to move away from the indecisiveness, and to preserve and protect the downtown area.”
The resolution, which was drafted by Councilman Russ Arensman with input from several City Council members, is aimed at steering future Highway 82 bypass options away from the Roaring Fork River confluence area, which was envisioned in a 2003 study for commercial, residential and park development.
The confluence area runs along the east bank of the Roaring Fork River, from the existing wastewater treatment plant for about a three-block stretch up to 10th Street.
Initially, the new resolution was to include a preferred route for whatever highway alignment solutions come out of the city’s recently adopted Highway 82 Corridor Optimization Plan process. It ended up just serving as a statement that the confluence area is not appropriate for a new thruway.
“This is not intended to resolve the issue of where and when an alternate route will be needed,” Arensman said. “And it’s not an attempt to subvert the public process.
“But this area is such a potential jewel for our city,” he said. “To me, it’s the No. 1 potential opportunity for a community redevelopment that will spur new growth and investment.”
However, several citizens, including some city transportation commission members, said nothing should be taken off the table when considering future traffic mitigation.
“I would urge you to vote against this resolution as it’s currently written,” transportation commission chairman David Alcott said in a letter to City Council. “You can’t deselect an alignment … (and) no action should be taken on city land that precludes a transportation solution.”
The letter was read into the record by fellow transportation commission member and former City Council member Chris McGovern, who said she agreed with the statement.
Longtime city resident Floyd Diemoz also said no routing options should be removed from consideration.
“What you have here is another foreclosure on a potential solution,” he said.
Mayor Bruce Christensen, who will also be leaving City Council next month, said the non-binding resolution merely serves to kick start the conversation once again.
“It’s more than a political statement,” he said. “I think we’re showing some leadership in moving this discussion along.”
Christensen noted that the resolution actually keeps the remainder of the river corridor, from 10th Street south, in the mix.
It also directs the city to begin evaluating the various traffic mitigation strategies contained in the corridor plan, which 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.
Councilman Dave Sturges had suggested postponing a vote on the resolution until the next council meeting. However, he ended up voting in favor of it.
“This reflects the opinion of the seven people up here,” Sturges said of the council. “I don’t know that a vote tonight reflects what the long-range view of this community is, and how we protect Grand Avenue, which is our main street.”
He also noted that the current bridge across the Colorado River is on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s “functionally obsolete” list, meaning it will need to be replaced eventually.
“This will afford us the opportunity to decide what we want to see on Grand Avenue, and to have this broader discussion,” Sturges said.
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