Letter from John Burg to City

Many thanks to Chris McGovern and John Burg for allowing me to post this email sent to Chris and the letter sent to City Counci;
Kathy Trauger

Chris,

I appreciate your very thoughtful comments to Kathy Trauger regarding the proposed Access Control Plan. They are clearly based on a wealth of experience and knowledge. I commend you on your high level of professional citizenship.

FYI, following is the text of an e-mail that I sent to the Mayor and City Council members with copies to the City Manager and key department heads on February 14. I know this e-mail differs with many in its acceptance and support of the two new bridges. However, it is my personal judgement that the new bridges are going to happen, that the team working on them is very competent, and that the best tactic in this regard is to take advantage of the opportunities (and challenges) that the new bridges present. In contrast, the proposed Access Control Plan is (but need not be) a real disaster. I agree totally with your findings that the ACP should be taken very seriously as a binding legal document. The efforts by some to downplay the ACP’s importance by claiming that is “only a plan; will be implemented over time; or can be amended” are disingenuous.

Mayor and City Council Members:

The purpose of this e-mail is to provide comments to you regarding the two current Glenwood Springs CDOT projects: 1) the bridge project as presented at the January 9 open house, and 2) the Access Control Plan as presented at the February 12 open house. I write as a concerned citizen of Glenwood and as a retired City Planner. My professional career included playing the lead role in downtown planning and urban design in both Minneapolis, MN and Sarasota, FL. In Minneapolis I worked closely with the Mayor, other elected officials, and MDOT in the design of a new landmark suspension bridge (originally proposed as a routine, mundane bridge) over the Mississippi River into downtown. In Sarasota, I worked with elected officials and FDOT on measures to improve the connection between downtown Sarasota and its beautiful bayfront across US Highway 41. In both Cities we were able to develop plans that met the objectives of the Cities as well as the State Departments of Transportation. I believe it is possible to do that here with your thoughtful deliberations and leadership.

The Bridges

There is much positive to say about the bridge process and project. The process has been open and participatory. The consultant team has exhibited an open and constructive attitude. They seem very competent and eager to produce a context sensitive and exemplary final product. The proposed solution offers many opportunities including the redevelopment of 6th Street between Laurel and Grand as well as an improved pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting downtown to North Glenwood. I was impressed with the ped/bike bridge design engineers. They were asking all the right questions: How can the bridge best integrate into the downtown on the South? On the North, how can the bridge best connect to the new 6th Street “village”, the Pool, and the regional trail system? What is the most appropriate bridge type? What are the aesthetics? I had the strong sense that they were eager to apply their design talents to create an exemplary and iconic bridge. I also sensed at the January 10 Q and A session that the project’s broader design team has a desire for excellence.

Recently, an urban design friend of mine in Chicago told me about the film “How Much Does This Building Weigh, Mr. Foster”. It’s about the architect, Norman Foster and is available via Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you take a look. I commend it to the bridge designers and your broader Grand Avenue team as a source of inspiration. Of course, Foster’s projects are large scale and he has great resources to work with. Nevertheless, we know that great things can happen at smaller scales and with more limited resources when the will is there. The key elements, which are exemplified in Foster’s office, are context sensitivity and the joy in striving for the heights. It’s so much more satisfying than hum-drum mediocrity – and in the end it will even bring most nay sayers on board. In the interim it will require your support, as well as that of the broader design team and those of us on the periphery. I for one will do what I can to be supportive.

The Access Control Plan

I wish I had more positive comments regarding the Access Control Plan. It’s a relatively simple project. Relatively simple solutions are at hand. Yet, it contains huge flaws. The elimination or consolidation of private access points over time, of course, makes sense. I was greatly disappointed on February 12 to again see the proposed elimination of traffic signals at 8th and 10th as well as the elimination of on-street parking. As I’ve previously noted, the 8th Street intersection is the most egregious. It’s the heart of the City – the City’s 100% pedestrian intersection. Removing this signal and its negative impact on pedestrian and vehicular cross traffic would be a terrible blow to Glenwood’s downtown. I’ve been scratching my head in an effort to understand the rationale for this (with any sensitivity toward downtown) without success. The comment of a CDOT official “I thought it would be easier to cross if you took out half of the signals” at the January 10 Q and A session added to my bafflement. Perhaps I misunderstood. Perhaps there is some sort of 1950’s pre-occupation with grade-separated crossings, that has driven a focus on the under-the-bridge crossing and elimination of this signal.

Jane Jacob’s seminal book “The Death and Life of of Great American Cities” in 1961 marked a turning point in urban planning. Planning and urban design theory and practice over the past several decades has demonstrated that in downtown contexts, people like to cross at intersections in the open air. Mixed-use downtowns with grids (the smaller the block size the better) work best. They provide the most opportunity for circulation of both pedestrians and vehicles. Severing these grids is damaging. Severing the grid at the City’s heart is unfathomable. A wide array of theory and practice supports this view including “Context Sensitive Design” and “Complete Streets” among transportation professionals. I am aware that the Downtown Development Authority is in the process of hiring an urban design consultant to address many of these issues. I urge you to seriously consider their findings.

During my professional career I have always striven for win/win solutions. I think a simple win/win solution is available here: Maintain the existing traffic signals. Synchronize the signals to accommodate peak-period Grand Avenue traffic while giving more time for cross street traffic in off-peak periods. Signal timing can easily be programmed to accommodate peak and off-peak periods during time-of-day and days-of-the-week. Given the tightness of the right-of-way and the desirability of bringing the pedestrian bridge to 8th Street (for several reasons), it is probably necessary to eliminate left turns from Grand Avenue at 8th.

There is also the issue of on-street parking. As I have previously noted, in addition to the parking spaces themselves, this parking provides a comfort buffer for sidewalk pedestrians as well as a psychological signal for vehicles to move at reduced speeds. I recognize that there are no proposals to increase the speed limit on Grand, however, we also know that motorists tend to drive at the perceived safe speed regardless of the speed limit, and that on-street parking reduces their speed.

There have been occasional implications from public officials that the pubic naturally resists change, even when it may be for the better. Having been a City Planner for 40 years I understand this resistance However, one must also be cautious in thinking that change for changes sake is good, or that change is always progress. In the case of traffic signals and on-street parking on Grand Avenue, I strongly believe the proposed changes would do major damage. The good news is that doing the right thing in this case, is the most simple and the most cost effective.

Thank you all for your honorable service to the City. I believe that you are all honestly trying to do what is best for the City. I have confidence that you will give your best to this effort, and I am hopeful for the best outcome for the City.

John Burg
1604 Bennett Avenue
947-9322

Access Control Plan Response to Chris McGovern

This, as promised, is in response to a comment from Chris McGovern to my blog “Hot Under the Collar” posted February 20th : http://ourtownglenwoodsprings.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/hot-under-the-collar/

First of all, Chris, thank you for your many years of service on City Council and the Transportation Commission. I realize that I have very big shoes to fill on the Transportation Commission. I appreciate your taking the time to comment on my blog and I hope you will continue to read and contribute.

The Planning Commission workshop last Tuesday was devoted to the Access Control Plan. By the way – these work sessions are open to the public and are publicly noticed. I am a firm believer that land use and transportation go hand in hand – and so the Planning Commission has requested another opportunity to review and make formal comment to City Council before a decision is made. City Council will be taking public comment at their meetings on March 7th and March 21st with a decision potentially coming April 4th. I also understand from talking with City Engineer Terri Partch that prior to the March meetings, story poles will be erected by CDOT along Grand Avenue to demonstrate the potential bridge widths associated with various traffic movement at 8th and Grand. I hope everyone will take the time to review this information.

Before I go much further, I need to say a couple of things:

• I am not a 100% advocate of the Access Control Plan as proposed. I see some positives and some negatives “as proposed”.
• I am still learning, still investigating and still asking lots of questions.
• I do like to play “Devil’s Advocate” – so bear with me . . .
• The Access Control Plan is just that . . . a “plan” – the implementation of which can be dependent on a number of factors.

Following is my response to Chris (Chris’ comments are in bold italics):
The ACCESS CONTROL PLAN is being proposed to move traffic along #82 at the expense of the Glenwood Springs community and at the expense of circulation patterns within Glenwood.

This is an opinion and as such is valid as such – an opinion. The circulation pattern, if all the ACP were adopted and implemented as proposed, most certainly would change. Whether it would be to the “detriment” of the current circulation pattern is pure conjecture.

The town would be bisected by an ACCESS CONTROL PLAN that is designed to mitigate traffic congestion on Grand Ave.

The town currently is, to some degree, bisected by having SH 82 running through the center of the community. But it is also bisected by two rivers, the Roaring Fork and the Colorado. While not man-made, the community has had to make some necessary accommodations for those rivers in building community. The question is will it be MORE bisected by the ACP? The answer depends partly on what is adopted by the City and approved by CDOT. If intersections are limited to right-in, right-out, it could indeed make getting from the east side to the west of Grand Avenue a longer, more convoluted process. Will it prevent it? Absolutely not.

• Glenwood citizens & visitors will be PROHIBITED from making left hand turns off Grand or onto Grand (that are currently allowed) at 56 locations between 8th and 30th.

I didn’t count but I trust that your numbers are accurate including intersections and “driveways” between 8th and Blake (30th) as the current ACP is proposed. If I counted correctly, there are 16 proposed closures between 23rd Street and 27th Street. In most of these cases, that may be an understatement as many of the businesses along this stretch have no clear entrances or exits. The same is true with the 6 or 7 “closures” from 27th to Blake (by McDonald’s) . Two things to keep in mind if I understand correctly (& I will verify and correct if this is not accurate):
The ACP will only be triggered by
*redevelopment of the property
*A traffic increase of 20% to the business
*Event of a serious accident

• As the study is proposed now- a car would not be allowed to travel ACROSS Grand Avenue at 8th Street or at 10th Street…. which truly cuts off one side of town from the other. All of the existing cross traffic east to west and west to east that currently travels on 8th, 9th and 10th is proposed to be handled by 9th Street. Very little of the cross traffic would move farther to the south- unless 9th Street stopped working/which of course COULD happen. (8th St. is already “past capacity”.)

My current preference, based on the information that I have, is that 8th and 9th Streets remain fully functional, signalized intersections. I really would like to like the right-in, right-out with a “pork chop” pedestrian refuge however my concern is access to the governmental and business entities as well as a potential connection to the 7th/8th Street bridge to Midland. I also think that if pedestrians are not given the option to cross somewhere between the middle of the 700 block (the under bridge crossing) and the 9th Street, I think that they may try to make a run for it.

If the decision is to go with right-in, right-out at 8th Street, then I would suggest that the city and CDOT consider a mid-block crossing in the 800 block with a pedestrian refuge in the middle of the street as well as some kind of flashing warning signal to motorists that pedestrians are present. This would mean the elimination of two parking spaces on either side of the street to create a bulb-out, but that in itself would, theoretically have a slowing, calming effect on traffic.

• There will be no turns from Grand Ave onto 7th… no access from Grand at that point, as the wing street will be closed.

This is true, but is more a function of the bridge replacement than of the ACP.

• 5 Parking spaces will be lost from the current parking area under the bridge.

True, but again a function of the bridge replacement more than ACP.

• If a vehicle was parked at the new library on 8th Street: the only “move” allowed at 8th & Grand would be to take a right hand turn & go over the bridge; there is no way to stay in downtown (The wing street is also proposed to be removed)

The parking under the library is currently earmarked as employee parking for Colorado Mountain College. Although I had to recuse myself from this decision when it appeared before the Planning Commission, I recall that one of the conditions included that cars exiting the garage would be limited to a right-hand turn. This would mean that employees would not be using the 8th Street intersection anyway. Patrons of the library will have various parking options, but most abundant parking will be located on Cooper. Chris is correct that if they use 8th & Grand (if limited to right-turn only), they will find themselves over the bridge. However at 8th and Cooper they will have several options including a right turn to go to Blake, or going one more block to 7th.

• Jimmy’s 66 at 13th is supposed to share a driveway onto Grand with the neighbor to the south. Has no-one ever walked those parcels to note the huge grade difference between the 2 properties?

This is a misconception. If Jimmy’s 66 and the businesses next door remain as they are, then nothing will change. If there is a redevelopment, then the access will be reviewed. The grade of the parcel next door appears to slope from east to west with the lowest nearest Grand. It appears that there is approximately a two-foot variance between the front of both parcels. I don’t think this would be a deal breaker for a shared entrance, but the grade would certainly be a consideration.

• Around 23rd….if a vehicle-customer coming from south Hwy #82 wanted to make a purchase from Arby’s…. the customer would need to go PAST Arby’s, take a left into Safeway, go south through the Safeway parking lot, continue going through Wendy’s parking lot, and finally arrive in Arby’s. What do you suppose that the impact will be on Arby’s business?

Again, keep in mind that this change would only be implemented if the businesses, Wendy’s or Arby’s redeveloped or if the City were to decide to add medians to Grand Avenue in this location. I don’t see that this will be an issue in the immediate future. There are in fact times when I have visited one or the other of these businesses, I will go back through the Safeway parking lot to make a left-hand turn onto Grand rather than take my chances in the “suicide lane” on Grand Ave.

• The gas station is even beyond Arby’s. Do planners really think that a consumer would take a left into Safeway, go through Wendy’s, go through Arbys in order to get to the gas station?

See above comment although Chris raises a good point for this gas station. Perhaps since 22nd Street across the street is planned to be a ¾ movement intersection (Left-in ok), this site could also be considered for the same.

• A customer would not be able to take a left into the US Bank in the 1900 block of Grand. When approaching from the south, the only access would be through Safeway.

Again – this would only take place upon redevelopment of the US Bank property. I have seen the proposed route – through Safeway parking – used by quite a few people.

• How does Safeway feel about being the “access” for a bank, for 2 restaurants and for a gas station? How much of the Safeway driveways are given up to traffic that is not Safeway’s customers? What kind of insurance liabilities must be absorbed by Safeway with this configuration?

While I cannot speak for Safeway, I would imagine they would be happy with anything that would bring potential customers to their door. Liability issues, I think, would be addressed with a reciprocal easement or access agreement that would stipulate any insurance requirement and indemnification.

• The Access Control Plan originally called for the Lutheran Church to be removed so that North Hyland drive can be straightened out to “meet” the corner of Park across the street. The plan has been changed to indicate the need to straighten out that intersection- but it could be done by taking 2 residential homes OR the Church.

It would only be done by “taking” IF there was a serious accident, probably a fatality. I am absolutely not an advocate of using eminent domain and would hope that the City could enter into an agreement with the appropriate land owners if and when the need or time arose. The recommendation from the City Engineer was that the City begin a fund to purchase these properties should they become available. Should CDOT feel that safety was critical, it might in fact not be the city who would exercise eminent domain.

• All of the property owners on the west side of Grand Ave between North Park Drive & South Park Dr. will be forced to “share” driveways” between neighbors with the “sale and/or redevelopment of property that brings a 20% increase of traffic”. (like a daycare home!) They will only be able to take a right hand turn out of their driveways. What do you suppose this does to THEIR property values?

In clarification of this with Terri Partch, City Engineer, she stressed that this area is currently zoned R1/6, which is single family residential. A rezoning of this area would be required to create the required 20% increase in traffic. Nothing will change if these homes remain residential. If the area were to be rezoned and uses began to be changed, then access in this area would also change.

• If you are in a vehicle on the east side of Grand between 14th and 20th—- you cannot take a left to get onto Grand Ave. according to the proposed plan (unless a “solution can be found for North Hyland Park Drive).. How much additional traffic does this force onto Blake Avenue ? What will the “wait” will be at he stop lights on 14th and 20th? How long do folks wait now to get across?

I understand, and will clarify with the City Engineer that the intersections and Park Drive and Hyland Park Drive (north) will remain full-movement intersections. Once again, nothing changes at the present time see above.

• When asked about pedestrian movements across Grand Ave , the planners kind of “shrugged” and stated that pedestrians would “still” be able to get across Grand at 8th (even though there’d be no signal/light…. but “perhaps” a safety median could be put there.) The PLAN calls for pedestrians to be “pushed” down to crossing under the bridge-closer to 7th…. instead of crossing at 8th (which is the heaviest used crossing in town).

See my response to an earlier point.

• Traveling south on Hwy #82 between 23rd and 27th—- there will be NO left hand turns allowed. You won’t be able to turn left into Domino’s, Defiance Thrift Store, etc. That means BLAKE between 23rd and 27th will have to service south bound-commercial traffic that is trying to get into all the businesses between 23rd & 27th. That stretch of Blake is not in any condition to carry that kind of traffic.

Again, nothing is slated to happen until/unless there is redevelopment and or a serious accident in this area. Also see an earlier response.

• The ACCESS CONTROL PLAN has Blake at 27th open through to Wal-Mart…. even though the Transportation Commission has been told by City Staff that was not being considered. Blake is not in any condition from 23rd to Wal-Mart to carry “through” traffic. Property owners along South Blake have not been noticed or consulted on this part of the proposal.

I have been in several meetings that opening of Blake through to WalMart was being kicked around. I have not heard that this option was off the table. I will check with City staff to get an opinion. I do think that in order for that to happen, Blake would need to be improved.

Everyone in Glenwood will be affected by an ACCESS CONTROL PLAN.
Many businesses in Downtown Glenwood will be adversely affected.
Businesses on Hwy #82 between 19th and 23rd would be severely impacted.
Citizens living on Blake, Cooper & Colorado will be negatively impacted.

There is truly no way to know to what extent businesses will be effected but the impact on our local business has always been one of my top concerns. I would direct you to a couple of reports prepared by various entities in other areas in response to very similar concerns. From reading these, it seems to be that the perceived negative effect to the business is greater than the actual negative effect.

ftp://ftp.mdt.mt.gov/research/LIBRARY/2009-12FINALREPORT.PDF

http://www.trpc.org/regionalplanning/landuse/Documents/Capitol%20Boulevard%20Planning%20Project/Economic_Impacts_of_Access_Mgmt.pdf

http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/D01/PlanningPrograms/trafficstudies/Documents/Economic-Impacts-of-Access-Management.pdf

I urge everyone to continue to read, listen, and do some investigation on your own. And of course – continue to read this blog and feel free to comment! If you simply wish to ask a question, I will try to see that it gets answered by someone who is qualified to answer!

A Case For a New Bridge . . . Now

Thank you to Chris McGovern for forwarding comments of Mr. Dick Prosence to my February 20th post http://ourtownglenwoodsprings.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/hot-under-the-collar/

Since I am neither an expert or an engineer, I put these comments out to several engineers and technical types in our community and received the following response from Michael Gamba, a professional engineer and land surveyor as well as a current member of City Council. This is his response (in italics):

*NEPA requires a comparison of ALL alternatives where a major federal action is undertaken.

Agreed, I believe that all alternatives to replacing the bridge were included in the evaluation, but only those alternatives that met the stated project purpose and need, which is appropriate.

*CDOT is limiting the alternatives being investigated.

Yes, as noted in the response above some alternatives that were outside of the stated project purpose and need were excluded from the evaluation. The stated project purpose is “to provide a safe, secure, and effective connection from downtown Glenwood Springs across the Colorado River and I-70 to the historic Glenwood Hot Springs area.” For example, this purpose does exclude the option of evaluating a bridge from the I-70 116 interchange across the Colorado River and RR to the confluence area, which is the preferred route for most bypass proponents. The confluence area is clearly not downtown Glenwood Springs, therefore it was excluded from consideration.

The other reason that this option was not considered is that it is my understanding that this option would be excluded by the funding source, which is the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund (CBE). The purpose of the CBE is to finance, repair, reconstruct and replace bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated “poor.” Therefore, the planning, design and construction of this option would require another funding source, which is most likely not available at this time or in the reasonably near future.

*The existing bridge has been there for nearly 60 years. Maintenance is often required on old bridges.

Agreed, but I’m not sure what the point is. This bridge is rated “poor” by the CBE and as such qualifies for repair or replacement with funds from the CBE. If it was not rated poor, the funds for the repair (or replacement) would have to come from some other source. Regardless of the fact that this bridge is 60 years old, it also has a significant number of physical or geometric deficiencies such as: 9.5 foot lane widths (code is 12-feet wide); vehicular clearance over 7th street; clearance over the railroad; potential for scour around the footings in the river; and the configuration of the bridge piers adjacent to the I-70 on-ramp and off-ramp at the 116 interchange which results in deficient ramp lengths and configurations and presents a very serious safety issue. The replacement of this bridge will correct all of these issues.

If the point of this comment is to infer that instead of replacing the old bridge, we should just continue to maintain it, then that is an issue that can be debated. In that regard, the “no build” option is still on the table, and will be considered in the NEPA process.

*If there is a scour problem or crumbling concrete, work on those problems.

This point appears to simply be a continuation of the previous comment, and I believe is sufficiently addressed with the previous comment.

*Locking 40,000-50,000 vehicles (vehicle trips) onto Grand Avenue including 4,000-5,000 dump trucks, gasoline tankers or other hazardous loads onto Grand Avenue is the overriding issue.

I believe that this comment is provided as intentional misinformation on the part of Mr. Prosence. Whether we replace the Grand Avenue Bridge or not DOES NOT PRECLUDE the possibility of a future bypass, alternate route, or the construction of additional city streets and roads that will provide more interconnectivity and reduce traffic congestion. Furthermore, the point about 4,000 to 5,000 dump trucks, gasoline tankers or other hazardous loads being on Grand Avenue is fairly ignorant in my opinion. Does Mr. Prosence think that it is better to put all of these types of vehicles on the Roaring Fork River? Or perhaps on Midland Avenue through a residential neighborhood? Both of which are the only reasonable alignments for a future bypass. Whether we build a bypass or not, these types of vehicles will still be going through the City of Glenwood Springs. There is no alignment or location in Glenwood where a bypass can be constructed that isn’t going to significantly affect some portion of our community.

*When I was involved in moving the railroad yards across the river, the subject of inadequate clearance never came up, not once.

I suspect that this may very well be true, but again I’m not sure what the point is. I don’t think that the clearance over the railroad is the over-riding geometric or functional deficiency that is pushing the reconstruction of the bridge. I don’t believe that there is any single design deficiency that is necessarily the “over-riding” concern, but collectively the replacement of the bridge does resolve a fairly significant number of issues as noted above.

Personally, if I were to rate the current deficiencies in order of those of greatest concern, I would put the narrow travel lanes as number one. The width of these lanes do not allow larger vehicles such as semi-trucks, RVs, and buses to safely drive in a single lane. In fact, due to the narrowness of the lanes, it is the current RFTA policy to prohibit their buses from using the Grand Avenue bridge. This results in a reduced efficiency of our public transportation system.

The issue that I believe presents the second greatest concern is the proximity of the bridge piers to the I-70 ramps. To my knowledge no one has yet been seriously injured or died in an accident due to the reduced length of the ramps, but I have heard many anecdotes from individuals describing very close calls. I do believe that it is just a matter of time before someone entering I-70 eastbound from the 116 interchange is injured or killed due to the insufficient length of the on-ramp.

*If it such a big deal, why wasn’t it brought up then?

I personally don’t think that it is a big deal (see comment above).

*The narrow bridge has functioned for over 50 years.

The bridge was originally constructed in 1953 as a two lane bridge with sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. Under this configuration, the width of the driving lanes were not reduced from the code at that time. In 1969, the sidewalks were removed and the bridge was reconfigured into its current configuration with four sub-standard driving lanes. Therefore, the bridge has only existed in its current configuration for 42 years, not 50 years. While the bridge in this configuration has functioned, I would contend that it is certainly a matter of opinion as to whether it has functioned well. I am personally aware of many instances where vehicles have struck the guard rails, have lost side mirrors due to close calls with oncoming vehicles, and have impacted either on-coming vehicles or vehicles travelling in the same direction due to the sub-standard driving lane widths. Additionally, as noted above, larger vehicles cannot safely drive in a single lane, therefore the functional capacity of the bridge is impaired.

*Why not delay it’s replacement until these other issues are resolved.

The short answer here is that if we wait to do anything in Glenwood Springs that starts to correct our transportation infrastructure problems until such time as we have a bypass, then from a realistic standpoint we will never do anything. Even though the significant majority of the citizens with whom I have spoken recognize the obvious logic of pursuing this opportunity to replace our decrepit, deficient Grand Avenue Bridge with one that can add many benefits to the city, this project alone has generated a not insignificant amount of controversy, to which Mr. Prosence is contributing. The long answer is described below.

Imagine what would happen if at tonight’s city council meeting, the council voted to approve a resolution adopting the railroad corridor along the east bank of the Roaring Fork River as our preferred bypass alignment, and we were going to start the process through CDOT and the Feds to pursue funding for the design and construction of the bypass. If everyone thinks that the bridge and the Access Control Plan are generating a lot of controversy now, the current public outcry would look like a blip compared to the angry mobs that would descend on Town Hall to oppose such an action. It’s my personal observation that the citizenry in Glenwood is irrevocably split on the issue of the bypass. Approximately one-third want to build the bypass along the east bank of the Roaring Fork River and the railroad corridor, approximately one-third want to build the bypass along Midland Avenue, and approximately one-third want to build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. And in my experience almost everyone is very passionate about their individual position on the issue. Therefore, any solution decided by any sitting council is going to enrage approximately two-thirds of all citizens.

But, let’s go a little further into this fantasy. Let’s assume that council decides where the bypass should be constructed and 100% of the entire town is fully supportive of the decision. At that point, we begin looking for funding. The estimated costs for such a bypass range from approximately $250 million to around $500 million. This amount will never be affordable to the City of Glenwood so we would have to obtain funding from federal or state sources. The most realistic estimate of the time-frame when that funding might become available from either state or federal sources is at best 20 years and most likely 30 years.

Therefore, under this best case scenario, in which the council decides on a specific bypass alignment (extremely unlikely), and the town overwhelmingly supports that specific alignment (which is a fantasy), and the funding to build the project is made available in 20 years (unlikely), and it would probably take 2 to 3 years to construct the project – then we would have a bypass somewhere around 22 to 23 years from now. At that point the Grand Avenue Bridge would be 83 years old, may no longer be structurally sound, and the traffic volumes on Grand Avenue would have increased to the point where all of the measures identified in the Access Control Plan would have been implemented, no matter how undesirable they are.

This does not sound like a reasonable common-sense plan to me. I believe that we currently have an opportunity to replace a vital piece of our city infrastructure through a process in which the opportunities for citizen input and involvement are huge, where the potential impacts during construction to the city, including to our businesses and our citizens, are being scrutinized and evaluated and will be absolutely minimized, and where the end result will be something that everyone will cherish and appreciate. As a citizen of Glenwood Springs for 41 years of my life, I believe that we would be insane not to take advantage of this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Gamba & Associates, Inc.
Michael Gamba, P.E. & P.L.S.

More Questions than Answers – and many thanks!

I have received some great feedback from various folks in the community – and amazingly enough, not everyone agrees with me! I welcome that and I hope that we can continue to grow this dialog. Chris McGovern, a former member of the Glenwood City Council and the Transportation Commission has posted a comment that I intended to fully respond to this evening – but life had other plans. I will respond and continue to discuss the Access Control Plan, the subject of Chris’ comment in the next day or two as it brings up issues that concern many people. I also have a couple of people interested in doing a guest blog, and I hope to get those going in the next week or so. So, if you are reading this and have an opinion, please let me know. You can comment or you can email me with your guest blog. Please include a way for me to easily contact you for any questions or clarifications. My email is ktrauger@rof.net. I would love to hear from some more of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue. I encourage others to continue to bring issues that cause trepidation to this forum. I would be especially interested in hearing from business owners along Grand that will be most impacted by the bridge and/or the access control plan. Sandy Boyd, co-owner of Glenwood Sew had a great letter to the editor in the Glenwood Post Independent today. As a young advertising rep for the, Glenwood Post, I remember hearing this discussion from the business community in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Some wanted a “bypass” and some were adamantly against it.

For those of you who really would like to see a bypass/alternate route, please give me some information. Where would it come from? Would it be from exit 114 (West Glenwood) or exit 116 (the main Glenwood exit)? Would it be down Midland, the Rail Corridor (along the east side of the Roaring Fork River) or in anothe location? Who have you talked to about your vision? CDOT? Council? or is the group Citizens to Save Grand Avenue planning to present a plan? Have you considered how to get this vision into the STIP (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program) for funding? Right now, I have more questions than answers, but I will keep asking and I hope folks will keep talking!

Hot Under the Collar

It is February and things are heating up around OUR TOWN! Is it due to “Spring Fever” or global warming or climate change? Nope! That hot-under-the-collar feeling is due to our community gateway – the Grand Avenue Bridge. The debate around town is not about the design, or the aesthetics, or the lighting, or the material. To quote a phrase from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, “To be, or not to be, that is the question . . .”

Actually, that is not exactly the question. It is apparent we NEED some bridge over the Colorado River to get from the north to the south side. The question is whether we need a new bridge now.

From the Save Grand Avenue Facebook site, this group, headed by John Haines asserts:
• “Replacing the bridge will do nothing to solve the Grand Avenue traffic problem. Such as traffic volume, heavy truck traffic, noise, dust and air pollution.
• Instead of focusing exclusively on Grand Ave. bridge, CDOT and Glenwood Springs should look at the whole picture of Grand Avenue – Hwy. 82 traffic needs and develop a comprehensive plan that is sensitive to the interest of both.
• Imposing a Grand Ave. Access Control Plan to prioritize Highway 82 traffic over Glenwood Springs residents use of their downtown will do irreparable harm to our city and to the tourist business which is vital to our economy.
• Closing Grand Ave. bridge to all traffic for 2 months, and possible more, will be devastating to our business community and the sales tax revenue needed by the city.
• By CDOT’s own admission additional lanes will be needed to accommodate future traffic volumes. Why not do that before taking the Grand Ave. bridge out of service and avoid the result traffic impasse and the need for any Access Control Plan.”

John Haines, as mentioned above is a former Glenwood Springs business owner – John Haines Chevrolet – and a resident of Westbank, a development between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale –– has been a vocal in his opposition to the project. He addressed Glenwood Spring City Council stating, “I don’t think you folks have a true grasp of what the feeling is in the community about this bridge.” Interestingly enough, this page only has 17 “Likes” thus far. But who am I to talk . . . since I am having these conversations, on my blog, with myself.

Others, well known to this community including Hal Sundin; Chris McGovern, a former member of City Council and the Transportation Commission; Cheryl Cain, a current Transportation Commission member; Walt Brown, a local attorney, have also weighed in against moving forward with a new bridge at this time. Some have said that a bridge should be approved by a vote of the people.

Some, like Ken Kriz a business owner and non-resident, do not dispute the need for a new bridge. However, according to his February 12, 2013 letter in the Glenwood Post Independent, Mr. Kriz is concerned that, “Once the bridge and bypass through the center of Glenwood Springs is done, there will be no other need for a different bypass.”

Several members of City Council, including Mayor Matt Steckler have commented in response to either letters from citizens or advertisements placed in the Glenwood Post Independent. Mayor Steckler concurs, in his January 28th “My Side” column, that construction of a new bridge will not be painless. He also stated that he finds the current traffic and pedestrian flow conditions on Grand Avenue and in our downtown core unacceptable. However, he pointed out that “Opposing these plans does not in any way advance the concept of a bypass or a rerouting of state Highway 82 traffic.”

Councilman Steven Bershenyi, in his February 1, 2013 letter to the editor commented that the City Council and the City of Glenwood Springs does not deserve the scorn of Citizens to Save Grand Avenue. He states that it is “completely unproductive” and urged making these decisions as a community.

Councilman Ted Edmonds noted in his February 12, 2013 letter to the editor, “It is also important to recognize that the issue of the Grand Avenue Bridge is separate from the access control plan.”

As I mentioned in my February 11 blog, though not in these exact words, we are dealing with three discrete challenges:
• The Grand Avenue Bridge
• The Access Control Plan
• The Bypass/Alternate route

Here are some facts about the existing bridge, as I understand them:
 The bridge is owned by the state of Colorado and is within the state right-of-way
 The bridge was built in 1953
 Engineering criteria at the time of construction was for a fifty year life span.
 Travel lanes do not meet current criteria for width
 The bridge piers are on shallow foundation and susceptible to “scour”
 Piers near I-70 are too close to the roadway, making it vulnerable to an accident with a semi or other heavy vehicle
 The bridge was designed for smaller loading criteria than currently exist
 The bridge clearance over the railroad does not meet current standards
 The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 47.4 and is functionally obsolete
 The bridge is a riveted plate girder continuous bridge
 The bridge is currently experiencing chucks of falling concrete, exposing rebar, leading to corrosion and compromising structural integrity.
 Current estimated budget for replacement: $46M
 Funded by Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund
 NEPA Goals for this project are:
o Meet design standards as practical to improve connectivity between the south side of the Colorado River and the north side of the river
o Maintain consistency with city planning regarding transportation and land use
o Accommodate multimodal transportation including buses, pedestrians and bicycles
o Meet transportation safety needs of all users p auto, truck, bus, pedestrian and bicycle
o Reduce and minimize construction impacts to the business, transportation users and visitors.
o Provide effective access for existing and future economic activity
o Avoid and minimize environmental impacts to scenic, aesthetic, historic and natural resources
o Provide practical and financially realistic transportation improvements for the 2035 planning horizon and a structure that will be sound for a minimum of 30 years
o Maintain or improve transportation (traffic and ped/bike) operations in the project area
o Incorporate sustainable elements into the design
o Provide an aesthetically appropriate solution that is in harmony with the context of the natural and built environment
o Avoid or minimize proximity, economic and right-of-way impact and relocations to adjacent properties.
o Incorporate Context Sensitive Solutions into the planning and design including community-based issues such as urban design and aesthetics.

WHEW! I am sure there are more.

The perplexing thing is I have seen very few of these facts (or any that I can think of) presented or disputed in opposition to the Grand Avenue Bridge Project.

What may be a fact is that IF City Council adopts a version of the Access Control Plan; the bridge project may trigger a small portion of that plan, most likely the area from 8th Street through 10th or 11th Street. However, Council appears to be moving very cautiously, particularly surrounding the Access Control Plan in the Downtown area.

We want our town, Glenwood Springs to be known for our beautiful vistas, our recreation, our hot springs, our caves, our great people and our quaint downtown. What we do not want to be known for is a major accident such as happened in 2007 on I-35W over the Mississippi.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Mississippi_River_bridge

As Mayor Steckler stated, a bridge does not preclude an alternate route through Glenwood Springs. Most would argue that additional ways to get through town, other than our downtown would be a grand idea. It sounds like we have some people interested in moving that forward. Great!!! Do it!!! Let’s get together and get funding and a consensus for location and do it!!!

But, please don’t put a roadblock to replacing the bridge we currently have. Look at the facts and then become positively involved. We need to move forward with the Grand Avenue Bridge Project.

I hope to have more historical information on the current bridge later as well as some photographs but if you can’t wait, an excellent source is the Denver Public Library Digital Collection http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/

Bridging the Gap

Grand Avenue 7 a.m. 2-12-13For a while, I gave up reading opines and harangues that often grace the pages of our local newspaper, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. No longer! I eagerly scan the pages for articles, advertisements, columns, editorials and letters to the editor for yet another perspective on the three issues that seem to be at the forefront of community discontent:

• the Grand Avenue Bridge Project
• the proposed Access Control Plan
• the need for an alternate route through Glenwood Springs

One thing is crystal clear, no matter where people stand on these issues; the people of Glenwood Springs genuinely care about our town. Whether they are members of City Council, members of boards or commissions within the city of Glenwood, City staff, business owners, property owners or residents they all want what is best for Glenwood Springs. This is a very good thing!

What is NOT a good thing is that this energy is flowing in the wrong direction. CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, City Council and staff and “Citizens to Save Grand Avenue” are not the enemy. We are in this together. It behooves us, as citizens and residents of Glenwood Springs, to work toward solutions and not against each other. Will everyone agree on a solution? Absolutely not! But the challenges we face do not have to divide our town.

The items above are three distinct concerns. Are they intertwined? Possibly. Can we just lump them together to come up with the perfect solution? Probably not.

Today, I want to look at the alternate route/bypass issue. Granted – this could take several blogs – but I will try to hit some of the main points now.

A Bypass/Alternate Route has been contemplated, for at least 30 years based, sadly, on my personal knowledge and I understand it has been discussed for longer, perhaps 50 years. Here are some facts:

•The City of Glenwood Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) 2003-2030 addresses the “Relocation of State Highway 82.” In this plan, the location is identified as “. . . from Exit 114 along Midland Ave., crossing the Roaring Fork River and continuing along the rail corridor until 23rd Ave connecting to the existing Highway 82.” The LRTP goes on to say “It involves reconstructing Exit 114 and installing a bridge over the Roaring Fork River to connect to 8th Street, depending on the exact location of the preferred corridor. It also includes constructing an additional road, details depending on preferred corridor, following the rail corridor and a possible reconstruction of the 23rd Street intersection where it potentially will connect with the existing Highway 82.”
NOTE: Exit 114 – as mentioned in the above plan is the WEST Glenwood Exit.

•The same LRTP plan indicated “This is a cost estimate based on the 1999 analysis of Balloffet and Associates, Inc. in their Glenwood Springs State Highway 82 Alternatives. The approximate cost is $53 million.”

•The City’s Comprehensive Plan, adopted in March 2011 states, “The vision for transportation in Glenwood Springs is an integrated and balanced multi-modal transportation system –one that supports regional travel needs but not to the extent that it compromises a healthy, dynamic downtown, economic viability, pedestrian-orientation, and easy access to the city core.”

Key objectives in the Comp Plan include:
•Maximize effective traffic movement on Grand Avenue to the extent that it is consistent with maintaining pedestrian friendliness
•Increase the connectivity of local streets, trails and walkways to provide multiple routes for circulation through town
•Continue to assess and plan for an alternative alignment of State Highway (SH) 82
•Provide convenient alternatives to automobile circulation within the city limits for local residents and visitors.

The Comp Plan absolutely recommends that nothing should be done that will preclude an alternate route.

However, the Comp Plan also recognizes that the project is not currently part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) nor is there currently funding for such a project. That does not mean that funding is impossible. It is just simply not on the radar at this time – partly due to the fact that, in spite of the information in the LRTP – there has never been consensus on exactly how and where the alternate route should go. Add to the mix is the fact that in order to make this happen, the City must work with the County, Union Pacific and RFTA in the preservation of the rail corridor.

One other point:
Funds for the Grand Avenue Bridge replacement come from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund and cannot be used to fund a bypass/alternate route. From the CDOT Website, “The purpose of the CBE is to finance, repair, reconstruct and replace bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated “poor.”

There is no easy solution. I am all for rolling up our sleeves and working together to finally find some additional routes for all transit through town. However, simply saying that we should not move forward to replace our aging bridge until we have an alternate route is not the answer. That is akin to burying your head in the sand and waiting until everything is just perfect and comes together in just the right way. We need to let go of our perfectionism and work toward practical, financially realistic solutions to our problems.

Let me tell you about OUR town – Glenwood Springs Colorado.

Postcard sent to my Great-Uncle from Glenwood Springs in 1907

Postcard sent to my Great-Uncle from Glenwood Springs in 1907

Let me tell you about OUR town – Glenwood Springs Colorado.

We are a small town set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at the convergence of two magnificent rivers; the Colorado and the Roaring Fork Rivers. We have a rich history that includes Indians (is that the pc correct term? I don’t wish to offend), explorers, frontiersmen, gamblers, railroads, presidents, lawmen, outlaws and well . . . more on that at a later time. Those who know us now generally know us for our hot springs and pool, our caves, our skiing, our rafting, our biking and hiking, our hunting, and our central location to even more fun stuff. The 2010 census put our population at 9,614. Rand McNally and USA Today named our town as the “Most Fun Town in America” in 2011.

What Makes Us Even MORE Special?

But what makes Glenwood Springs well . . . . “Glenwood Springs” is OUR people and our passion!

Every community has some of both, right?

True! However, in the coming weeks and months, I hope you will agree there are excellent reasons we have to be passionate and protective of our town – while continuing to see it improve and progress.

We are a bit of an eclectic mix of native Coloradoans and those who have “chosen” Glenwood Springs as their home. Just read the opinion page and letters to the editor of our local newspaper, the Glenwood Post Independent – although I often question the “independent” part – and you will see that we are a vocal crowd.

So . . . why start a blog about Glenwood Springs?

First – I love the written word and quite frankly, I don’t think or talk very quickly on my feet . . . Although I have Irish roots, the eloquence and quantity of blarney somehow eludes me.

Second – and more importantly – I am an enthusiastic advocate of Glenwood Springs and making it the very best place it can be for all of us to work and to live – as well as to visit. But I am also realistic. I know that there are issues, concerns and challenges that Glenwood Springs must face and we are in a particularly challenging time right now. I “serve” the community by acting on some city boards and commissions – not to the extent that some in our community are involved, but to the extent I feel I can be of service and work for solutions.

Over and over, in meeting after meeting, I hear people say they don’t feel they have a voice. My hope for this blog is to be a springboard for discussion and involvement from those in the community who find it difficult to “get involved” in the traditional sense. I also hope that those who are part of the city, county and region and state as elected officials or appointed members will weigh in on this blog and share their outlook. I hope to throw out some items for thought, perhaps give my viewpoint, and I welcome you to challenge those thoughts, give me your own ideas and provide feedback. I would also love to include some “guest bloggers” on this site. Interested? Let me know! After all, this is truly OUR TOWN and we need to work together to keep it the great place it is.