Letter: It’s the highway, not the bridge | AspenTimes.com

Letter: It’s the highway, not the bridge

It’s the highway, not the bridge

The Colorado Department of Transportation is currently soliciting public comment on the environmental assessment to replace the existing Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs with an entirely new and dramatically different structure — a modern marvel of engineering.

The $100 million design is basically a giant, modern freeway curve leaping across the Colorado River that would land you right back down in funky old downtown Glenwood.

The planners and engineers have assured the residents that they have listened and responded to the community input and have spectacularly addressed every conceivable community impact. There are even plans for an extravagant outdoor pedestrian elevator accessing a pedestrian bridge to preserve the view-plain when looking across the river toward the hot springs from downtown.

CDOT recently sponsored public meeting soliciting resident comment on the assessment and the project’s overall impact on the Glenwood Springs community. At that meeting, speaker after speaker eloquently attempted to point out the obvious to the CDOT engineers and planners in charge of this project: This complex, $100 million-plus proposal fails to address on any level the overriding Highway 82 transportation issue that currently faces Glenwood residents.

Namely, how do you reduce the daily impact of 40,000 cars and trucks using Highway 82 through the very heart of this great resort community?

In general, Glenwood’s economy is based on tourism and recreation. Having an ultra-modern freeway as the entrance to town is a complete contrast to the central core historic buildings that characterize Glenwood to both visitors and residents alike. The modern freeway proposal could not be more glaringly out of place.

The historic core would be dominated and marginalized by the size and scope of the proposed bridge. The small businesses that currently operate in that area will suffer months of disruption during two years of construction. There are no long-term benefits to the businesses either, because upon completion, the proposed freeway entrance design will only result in more traffic, more noise and more pollution.

The Hotel Colorado, the Hot Springs Spa, the Hotel Denver, the Railroad Depot and the turn-of-the-century buildings in downtown deserve to maintain their dignity and respect.

The magnitude of this problem deserves a comprehensive CDOT solution that actually reduces the very real and destructive impacts of having Highway 82 traffic running forever through the heart of Glenwood Springs rather than simply institutionalizing Highway 82 traffic to forever prevent enjoying Glenwood’s heritage of being a truly premier resort destination.

The way this project has been presented to the community in an environmental assessment format should be contested in written comments to the CDOT planners. An assessment only outlines a single “preferred alternative.” Preferred by whom? Highway contractors? Not by the residents, not by downtown business owners, not by the commuters and truck drivers who sit daily in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Grand Avenue.

Demand both a better process and a better solution. This regional traffic bottleneck should have been identified and addressed in a comprehensive environmental impact statement that develops and outlines several options for public consideration. That offers alternatives that will reduce Highway 82 traffic through Glenwood and improve the quality and dignity of living and working in Glenwood Springs now and in the future

The planners will tell you that it’s just fine that it completely fails to reduce any traffic because it’s mostly federal highway money anyway that will be spent elsewhere if we don’t squander it right away, right here.

As responsible residents and taxpayers, it’s our duty to demand value for our tax dollars and work toward making civil investments that can improve the quality of life now and in the future. Let’s work together to create long-term transportation infrastructure solutions that our children can look back on with pride and respect. That is the spirit that has molded and created the unique communities we enjoy today here in western Colorado.

Please take a few moments to tell CDOT that Highway 82 is the problem, not the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Royal Laybourn


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