Grand Avenue Bridge Town Hall Meeting April 2

CHAMBER, DDA HOST TOWN HALL MEETING
TO DISCUSS GRAND AVENUE BRIDGE: MYTHS, REALITIES & OPPORTUNITES

Glenwood Springs, CO…”Grand Avenue Bridge: Myths, Realities & Opportunities” is the subject of a town hall meeting hosted by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (GSCRA) and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on Tuesday, April 2 beginning at 6 pm at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The meeting will be facilitated by Clark Anderson, Director of the Western Colorado Legacy Program for the Sonoran Institute.

The town hall meeting panel consists of Joe Elsen, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Project Engineer for the Grand Avenue Bridge; Zane Znamenacek, CDOT Traffic Program Manager and a resource for the Access Control Plan; Jim Charlier, President of Charlier Associates, a DDA consultant and a nationally-recognized transportation planning professional; and John Haines, Chairman of “Citizens to Save Grand Avenue,” a group of citizens who have raised concerns about the Grand Avenue Bridge project and Access Control Plan.

According to GSCRA Board Chair Michael McCallum, “The chamber’s objective is to provide our businesses and the public with accurate information about the bridge replacement project. We are collaborating with the DDA to host a meeting that encourages public dialogue with a panel of outside and community resources. We want to provide facts and information to help people understand the issues, and to explore solutions and opportunities.”

Executive Director of the DDA Leslie Bethel says, “As part of our overarching goal to enhance the downtown experience for residents and guests through infrastructure, beautification and

Now is your chance to be heard!!

If you are interested in attending and contributing to Grand Avenue Bridge Focus Group meetings on Tuesday, March 26th, please contact Manette Anderson at manette.c.anderson@gmail.com Phone is 379-2816. This is your chance to talk to someone in a small group setting to share your thoughts on the Grand Avenue Bridge proposal. Groups will be meeting all day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hotel Denver. I understand each group will be about an hour long. The information gathered from these groups will be used at the Town Hall Meeting, Tuesday April 2nd at 6 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Don’t miss on this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Q & A on the Grand Avenue Access Control Plan; the Project Team Responds

Last month I sent a series of questions regarding the Access Control Plan to various groups including the City, Stolfus and Associates, and CDOT. My questions were circulated to the Project Team and last Thursday, I received their response. What follows is my questions (in bold), followed by the response as sent to me by Michelle Hansen, a Professional Engineer with Stolfus and Associates. My thanks to Stolfus, CDOT and the City for getting this information to me. Perhaps if there are other questions entered into the comments area, they will respond. I apologize for the formatting of this. Like I said before, you get what you pay for and this blog hosting site is free!

What is the difference/benefit (Pros & Cons?) of entering into an IGA with CDOT in an ACP as opposed to simply going with the current standard access code?

Access is currently controlled on the State Highway System via the State Highway Access Code. By law, CDOT must enforce the requirements of the State Highway Access Code. CDOT applies the Code on an individual first-come/first-serve basis as properties develop and redevelop. The standards and criteria of the Code must be applied as defined with limited flexibility for adjustment. With the Code, CDOT staff cannot consider adjacent land use, future access to adjacent properties, or corridor-wide impacts. The benefits of entering into an IGA with CDOT in an ACP include:
• The City has an opportunity to partner with CDOT to define future access conditions on SH 82 that balance both State and Local objectives. The ACP allows the City to participate in making decisions about access that are more consistent with the City’s vision, land use, and local transportation system rather than having access defined solely by the standards and criteria of the State Highway Access Code.
• The ACP addresses access on a corridor-wide basis rather than an individual, first-come/first-serve basis. An ACP considers how adjacent access points impact each other and defines how access to adjacent properties can be achieved as redevelopment occurs. Adopting the ACP provides the City with the tools to incorporate potential and anticipated future development as it relates to access and provides property owners with security in the planned access for their properties.
• In some instances, the recommendations of the ACP allow closer access spacing and a higher level of access than the criteria of the State Highway Access Code where technical analyses can demonstrate adequate safety and operations. Additionally, the recommendations considered adjacent land use, corridor specific conditions, and City goals for future improvements which are specifically not considerations of the State Highway Access Code.
• Adopting an ACP is the first step necessary for implementing traffic calming and streetscaping improvements on SH 82. These types of improvements have been recommended in multiple previous studies conducted by the City. Specifically, this is the first step towards implementing raised landscaped medians along Grand Avenue. The ACP process ensures that the State and City have provided legal access for adjacent properties and facilitates the public process for any proposed access modifications.
A potential downside of adopting the Access Control Plan is that the ACP recommendations reflect today’s point of view about future conditions. As time goes by, not all of the assumptions of the ACP will ring true. While the ACP provides for future modification to resolve those issues as they arise, the City will likely need to expend public funds to make the necessary changes.

I understand that an ACP is put in place to promote safety and efficiency along a section of highway. In what ways, specifically, does this ACP address pedestrian and bicycle safety and promote multi-modal transportation uses?

An ACP specifically addresses vehicular access to the State Highway System. However, per the State Highway Access Code, ACP’s shall not preclude the current or future accommodation for other transportation modes. Supporting alternative modes is a goal of the project and the Draft ACP supports this goal in the following ways:
• A pedestrian and/or cyclist must cross every driveway on the highway that crosses the sidewalk and/or bicycle lane. Consolidating, reducing, and defining access points reduces the number of conflict points and the associated crash risk between vehicles and pedestrians and/or cyclists.
• The plan is the first step toward implementing traffic calming measures that will make the downtown area more pedestrian friendly. This may include the addition of raised, landscaped medians and the opportunity for wider sidewalks and/or separation between sidewalks and traffic lanes.
• The Draft Plan separates the highest pedestrian movement in the corridor at 8th Street from vehicular traffic providing a safe, free-flowing pedestrian underpass beneath the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge within a couple hundred feet of the 8th Street intersection.
• By placing a full signal at 9th Street, the draft plan also encourages pedestrians to walk from 8th Street to 9th Street, improving the economic viability of businesses in this block.
• By removing the need for left-turn movements at 8th Street, the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge width can be minimized, allowing for a 10’ shared use path connection between the pedestrian bridge and 8th Street, eliminating the need for a scissor structure (a switchback type ramp structure that provides a connection between the pedestrian bridge and the street level and allows the pedestrian/cyclist to exit the structure approximately above or below where they started) or elevator at 7th Street.
• The Draft Plan is consistent with the existing Safe Routes to School route at 9th Street which calls for student crossing of Grand Avenue (SH 82) at 9th Street.
• The Draft Plan provides a consistent spacing between pedestrian crossings in the downtown area rather than creating long segments without pedestrian crossings.
• A pedestrian–only signal is maintained at 15th Street to address the currently warranted pedestrian crossing driven by the movement of high school students.
• The proposed realignment of S. Grand Avenue (at 23rd) will improve the sight lines for all users and will thereby improve safety including safety of the RFTA trail crossing that currently crosses S. Grand at a significant skew.

What type (classification) of Highway is SH 82 through Glenwood – and where can I find the Access code associated with that classification.

SH 82 from I-70 to the Glenwood Springs south city limits is classified as Non-Rural Arterial (Category NR-B). SH 82 beyond the City limits (approximately where the median barrier begins) towards Orrison is classified as an Expressway (Category EX). The State Highway Access Code describes each category and associated requirements. The State Highway Access Code, as well as other access related references, can be found on the CDOT website at: http://www.coloradodot.info/business/permits/accesspermits/references.

The ACP is based on projections for 2032 (I believe – going from memory). When were those projections done and how were they calculated. Given the current downturn in the economy, could those projections be overstated?

The projections for the project are based on a 20-year planning period (2032). Traffic counts were conducted in March 2012 for this project. Seasonal variations in traffic volumes were accounted for and the March counts were adjusted to reflect conditions typically experienced in August, the second highest volume month of the year. Future projected traffic volumes account for background growth (growth anticipated over time) and traffic generated from known planned developments. A background growth rate of 2.0% was used for the Access Control Plan. This growth rate was developed by considering both recent history and a 20-year view of historic trends. The rate is also consistent with other recent plans, including the Corridor Optimization Plan, the South Bridge EA, and the Grand Avenue Bridge EA. The background growth rate of 2.0% was applied to the seasonally adjusted March 2012 traffic counts to project traffic volumes.

Traffic engineering is not an exact science and uses available data to make educated forecasts about future conditions. Any traffic projection risks overstating or understating future traffic volumes due to unknown future conditions; however, even if it takes longer than 20 years to realize the projected growth of traffic volumes, we anticipate that similar growth will be realized over time. Again, an ACP maps out changes that can be implemented when growth does happen.

Are there currently any plans by the City or CDOT to install medians along any portion of Grand Avenue?

CDOT does not currently have any plans to install medians on Grand Avenue except any median that would be included as part of the Grand Avenue Bridge project (not expected to extend past 8th Street).

The City has several planning documents that recommend installing medians on Grand Avenue including the Comprehensive Plan, Grand Avenue Traffic Calming Plan (Dan Burden Plan), and the City Downtown Plan. The Access Control Plan is the first step toward implementation of medians. The City has budgeted funds to develop preliminary plans for medians within the downtown area. This project has not been initiated yet. No funding is currently identified for construction of any medians along any portion of Grand Avenue.

Does this plan include any elements of the “Dan Burden Plan” and if so, what?

The Draft Access Plan incorporates many of the elements recommended in the Grand Avenue Traffic Calming Plan or “Dan Burden Plan” including:
• Setting the stage for installing raised medians on Grand Avenue. The Access Plan is the first step to planning for raised medians along Grand Avenue.
• Eliminating left turns on 8th and 10th. (Note: The “Dan Burden Plan” does not specifically recommend removing the traffic signals at these intersections. That recommendation was developed from the ACP.)
• Moving the 15th Street signal to Hyland Park Drive.
• Realigning Hyland Park Drive with Park Drive.
• The Access Plan does not specify what type of traffic control is required at full movement intersections. However, roundabouts are an acceptable form of traffic control at full movement intersections. The “Dan Burden Plan” recommends roundabouts at 23rd and 27th. Both of these intersections are identified as full movement intersections in the Draft Access Plan; therefore, roundabouts could be implemented in the future as long as the roundabout operates at an acceptable Level of Service and there is enough space to construct a roundabout that can accommodate the design vehicle for the highway.

A stated goal of the Glenwood Springs “Glenwood Spring Transportation Plan 2003-2030” is “To provide and efficient network of streets and bridges that provide safe and convenient access for autos, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians. Streets must be well maintained and function according to street classifications.” Specifically, how does the ACP further this goal?

Focusing solely on the City’s street classifications, Grand Avenue and Glen Avenue are classified as prinicipal arterials. As defined by the City’s Street Standards, “Principal Arterials provide for mobility through the City and for connecting the major centers of activity within the City. Although principal arterials may provide access to commercial and residential properties where no other alternative is available, access is a secondary function.” The ACP ensures that each property adjacent to Grand/Glen has access either directly or via the local street system. In addition, the ACP locates major intersections to provide efficient traffic flow which will preserve capacity on Grand/Glen as traffic volumes increase. This will result in reduced delay and travel times which will encourage through traffic to stay on the Grand/Glen rather than diverting to the local street system. Consolidating access and minimizing locations where vehicles merge, split, or cross also reduces conflict points and potential crash risk.

Has any kind of an economic impact study been conducted? I know there are several studies out there. Are there any that have been done by independent sources – other than by or for a Department of Transportation. The reason I ask is an explicitly stated distrust of studies done by government.

No, an economic impact study has not been conducted as part of the Access Plan study process. The implementation of an Access Control Plan is largely dependent on redevelopment of properties and businesses, so an economic impact study based on today’s businesses does not provide specifically applicable data. However, the DDA has contracted with a group of consultants to evaluate the different intersection configurations between 8th and 10th. This group includes an economic consultant.

There has been talk of requiring an EIS. Will this project (ACP) trigger an EA and/or and EIS?

No, an Access Control Plan will not trigger and EA or an EIS. An Access Control Plan is a planning document and does not have specific construction projects defined. The plan itself will be implemented in phases as things change. Each construction project that is developed over time, whether private or public, will be required to obtain an environmental clearance prior to construction. At that time, the level of environmental clearance required will be defined. Implementation of a portion of an Access Control Plan generally does not require modifying the alignment or capacity of the highway and is accomplished in small phases. Generally, implementation of a portion of an Access Control Plan meets the requirements for a Categorical Exclusion and does not require an EA or EIS.

The intersections at 23rd and 27th are the most probable to see some changes – based on what I understand. If, for example, 23rd Street intersection is reconfigured, how far does that trigger the implementation of the ACP? Down to Safeway? Up to 27th? Or is it limited to only the immediate intersection?

The limits of a construction project at 23rd are difficult to define at this point. Depending on the timing and funding, the limits of the project could be limited to the immediate intersection or could extend farther. These are the elements that will be considered in defining the limits of the project:
• The length required to physically tie-in the realigned intersection with SH 82.
• Operational or safety issues occurring adjacent to or near the intersection at the time of construction
• Funding available to complete improvements
• Other public or private projects in the area that can be combined

Have things like grade differences been considered when determining shared access? If it has not been considered now, will it be considered at the time of implementation?

Yes, grade differences have been considered when determining shared access and will also need to be considered as part of the development plans at the time of implementation. Shared access will be implemented with redevelopment. We have considered the feasibility of addressing existing grade differences within a redevelopment project. It is reasonable that within a redevelopment project, grade adjustments within 1 or 2 feet can be achieved. For example, there is an existing grade difference between the Jimmy’s 66 and Cyber Salon and Day Spa. When the Cyber Salon and Day Spa redevelops (increases traffic by more than 20%), grades would need to be adjusted at the shared driveway location and the grades of the new driveway would be very similar to the existing driveway.

What are the reasons that the City has not undertaken a traffic circulation study, particularly for the downtown area in light of the bridge, ACP, library and parking structure?

The City plans to conduct a traffic circulation study downtown following completion of the Access Plan study and the parking study currently in process. The City has selected to complete the circulation study following these other studies to minimize study overlap, reduce confusion, and focus study efforts efficiently based on recommendations from the other studies as they relate to and potentially influence circulation needs and desires. Since the City’s downtown street system is a grid system, it provides one of the most flexible circulation configurations possible for city street networks.

For shared access, would a reciprocal easement or access agreement be necessary? If so, have those agreements typically addressed liability and indemnification? If not, how are those issues addressed?

Yes, for shared access, a legal access agreement or easement would be required. Liability and indemnification would need to be addressed specifically in the easement agreement prepared by the property owner’s attorney. The City and CDOT would not participate in the specifics of the easement, but would make development approval conditional upon providing one.

Does the City currently have any plans to extend Blake to Wal-Mart? If this were done, what improvements would be necessary on Blake from 23rd Street South?

The City does not currently have plans to extend Blake to Wal-Mart. This connection was identified as a potential improvement for the purposes of local circulation. The adoption of the Access Control Plan only applies to the access points directly to the highway and does not obligate the City to improve any local circulation routes shown including Blake, 8th Street connection, 14th Street connection, or South Bridge.

If Blake was extended to Wal-Mart for public traffic, roadway improvements would be required and would likely include improving the cross-section to one of the City’s standard street sections, as well as improving the condition of the driving surface itself.

Could the redevelopment of one parcel or business trigger the redevelopment for an entire block or group of businesses?

Under the both the State Highway Access Code and the ACP, depending on the size and extent of a redevelopment, the level of access could be restricted for multiple properties or businesses with the redevelopment of one parcel or business. For example, if a large redevelopment project is initiated and the City requires the developer to install medians along a portion of Grand Avenue or Glen Avenue, the construction of medians could restrict other driveways within that segment to right-in/right-out.

In contrast, the relocation, consolidation, and shared access conditions in the plan would not be triggered for other parcels adjacent to a property redevelopment unless the property owner participated willingly. Relocation, consolidation and shared access will be implemented based on individual redevelopments. Shared access is generally accomplished through multiple iterations since the timing of redevelopment for two properties side by side do not generally occur simultaneously. For example, if the plan indicates a shared access between property A and property B, and property A redevelops first, property A will be required to construct their new access adjacent to the property line and provide an access easement for property B. When property B redevelops several years later, property B will construct a shared access or connect to the existing access at property A and provide an access easement for property A.

Chris McGovern states that 10 small businesses went out of business due to the recent Grand Avenue Paving Project (GAPP) project. Is there any way to verify or refute this? Is there any ongoing information/studies related to business in Glenwood Springs and why they succeed or don’t. If they go out of business does anyone follow up to see what are the reasons?

It is difficult to directly associate the success or failure of a business to a single factor or event. Numerous factors other than construction or access can impact a business’ revenues, including, but not limited to, internal management and operations, external local and global economic factors, competition, and technology/industry related changes. Studies have shown that certain businesses experience increased revenues as a result of construction spending during a project. Given the numerous factors that contribute to a business’ success or failure and the variation in effects businesses experience during construction, there is no way to specifically link the failure of an individual business to a single factor or, in this case, a single project.

What is “Small Town Character”?

Confluence Area from Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram

Confluence Area from Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone . . . er . . . Glenwood Springs . . .

My sincere apologies to Garrison Keillor. This blog lacks the eloquence of Mr. Keillor’s musings but, in some very small way, perhaps serves a similar purpose – simply informing the local folks about what is going on around town – particularly concerning local concerns. No, we don’t have a Chatterbox Café but we have the always popular Daily Bread. We have no Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, but we have the caring staff of All Dogs and Cats Animal Hospital. We also don’t have a Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery but we have a fantastic Downtown Drug. Come to think of it, Glenwood Springs IS the quintessential small town America. We have the best of all worlds, right here, squeezed between some red mountains and roaring rivers. Lake Woebegone should be so lucky!

I attended a couple of meetings this week that simply drove the fact that Glenwood Springs is what all the urban planners or smart growth advocates mean when they talk about small town character. While working on the 2011 Comprehensive Plan we debated the meaning of “small town character” and while a dictionary definition is elusive, a definition by example is crystal clear. Let me see if I can illustrate.

Wednesday evening the Sonoran Institute, an organization fondly described to me (NOT by me) as “responsible tree-huggers” but self described on their web site as “Shaping the Future of the West” facilitated a community goal setting meeting for what locals know as the “Confluence Area.” This confluence area has been delineated as a roughly 23 acre area bordered on the west by the Roaring Fork River, on the north by the Colorado River and – depending on who you talk with – an area encompassing School Street to the east and extending to 11th or 12th on the south. It is a mixture of public and private land whose potential has been unlocked by the relocation of the City’s sewer treatment plant.

Google Maps - Confluence Area

Google Maps – Confluence Area

I have participated in a few exercises and programs that the Sonoran has facilitated and Clark Anderson and Jillian Sutherland did, as usual, an amazing job of keeping the focus of the group on the task at hand. Through a grant by the Gates Family Foundation, the Sonoran Institute, in collaboration with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the City of Glenwood have been successful in bringing in some outstanding consultants, Jim Charlier of Charlier Associates as well as Tim Van Meter a partner, architect & urban designer at Van Meter Williams Pollack and a lecturer for the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business to assist in this endeavor. They are working with a group of various stakeholders from throughout the community to explore, develop and recommend opportunities for this area.

At this meeting plenty of ideas were discussed through a guided conversation and some team activities. You could feel the excitement and optimism building as the evening progressed. I heard several comments from various participants to the effect that it was encouraging that people with often differing views on many things were able to agree on major goals for this area.

Light bulb!!!!

THIS is small town character!!! People working elbow to elbow in cramped City Council chambers, pouring over some graphics of a triangular piece of land literally in the heart of town, discussing, disagreeing, putting forth ideas, listening and finally being able to agree on some key principals of what this area means to this community. These are some of the same people who have been at loggerheads over other issues in town – but – as a community – a true kinship is forged. This is small town character. This is Glenwood Springs. Eat your heart out Lake Wobegone!

Chris McGovern’s Comments to City Council Regarding the Bridge

When a bridge design was selected, the “choice” subsequently published…. and briefly mentioned at the Transportation Commission meeting a few months ago…. Dave Alcott, the head of the Transportation Commission at the time, summed up the situation succinctly: by saying that the new Bridge design is “paving over paradise”… and that it is not doing a thing to solve Glenwood’s traffic problem.

Today’s meeting along the 700 block of Grand Ave was a valiant attempt to show the community where the parameters of the proposed bridge might be, and what the height of a proposed bridge might be.
Unfortunately, even though the presenter had a microphone…. because of the noise of the traffic going by…. it was very hard to hear his points, and impossible to hear the questions from the public. Tom (as the presenter) was good enough to usually repeat the questions, but unless a person was to the “front” of his microphone…. the conversation could not be heard.
I bring up this point about the noise, because Dave Sturges had asked about traffic noise during one of Council’s workshops. Noise is intense on all of Grand Avenue…. and that is simply from the traffic going by. Noise does not seem to get significantly more or less intense with vehicles stopping and/or starting. The level of noise is high on Grand simply with “Traffic” moving along the street.
So NOISE was the first issue that I wanted to address concerning the bridge.
SECONDLY:
The community of Glenwood Springs has overwhelmingly opposed the removal of the left-hand turns from SH 82 to 8th Street.
CDOT is stipulating that the width of the proposed bridge is the primary reason to eliminate left hand turns at 8th & Grand. (That is quoted from David Eller’s post on the OUR TOWN blog a few days ago. David Eller is the director of CDOT Region 3.
THEN Mr Eller goes on to say that : “The only way to prevent left-hand turns from SH 82 is with some sort of median or barrier. It is not reasonable to expect that a sign on the signal arm stating “No Lefts” would prevent motorists from attempting to make left turns from SH 82 from a through lane. The resulting unlawful left-turn movements would cause safety and mobility problems for everyone else on SH 82. He goes on to say: Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where compromise is going to be needed.”
In all of the workshops that I have attended, and all of the presentations that I have attended…. this is the first notice that I have heard where CDOT is STIPULATING that there will be a barrier on Grand Ave at 8th to PREVENT left hand turns.
The “compromise” that Mr Eller is referring to is not a “compromise” at all…. but a requirement that Glenwood Springs give up more of its character and more of its vehicle circulation for CDOT’s BRIDGE plan.
Thirdly
With the poles showing the width of the bridge coming in so tightly to the shops on the 700 block of Grand Ave, there will literally be a TUNNEL created on that block… both the east and west sides. The downtown district of Glenwood is barely 2 ½ blocks…. nearly ½ of the business district will be severely impacted by additional noise, and a lessening of space and openness.
The economic Survey presented to City Council in November 2003
stipulated that 40% of Glenwood’s sales tax base is generated by Tourists, and the Chamber of Commerce Study indicated that
• 60 % of tourists to the area expect to shop while visiting
Glenwood
• 70% of tourists to the area expect to eat in a restaurant
while visiting Glenwood
• The amount of traffic ABSOLUTELY creates an impact on our tourist and local business. I live in Downtown, and have a porch that fronts the street. Quite a number of visitors to town have stopped to speak while walking through downtown…. and quite a few have lamented the amount of traffic going through Glenwood’s main street. “It used to be different” several have said.

Glenwood downtown businesses need to attract both local business
and tourist business to survive and to thrive. The pool, the cavern and the tram need a charming downtown to “round out” their offerings.

It is not just an OPINION that these projects hurt business. Many small businesses did not have the ability to survive a full 12 months after the GAPP Project. These “capital projects” that keep being thrust on the community of Downtown are NOT in the interests of the Glenwood Community when they are over-sized and/or over-reach.

Sumner Schachter made the following points:
• Make sure that the final design is worthy of a long term gateway to our town. And I would add…. make sure that the bridge design in proportion to our town (not a Los Angeles style bridge)
• Make sure that the construction of this bridge will not preclude any of the options in the COS. Sumner says that he believes that completion of this bridge will make an “alternate route” (or I’d add a relocation of Hwy #82) option for Glenwood a much lower priority to CDOT and corresponding Federal funds since the new bridge would solve most of CDOT’s ‘problems (but not ours).
• Try to get the bridge as narrow as possible and impact the 7th to 8th street block as little as possible.

Thank you for the opportunity to address Council.

” . . .the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Grand Avenue looking south from the old wooden bridge - Courtesy of Frontier Historical Museum. Please do not reproduce.

Grand Avenue looking south from the old wooden bridge – Courtesy of Frontier Historical Museum. Please do not reproduce.

When I started Our Town Glenwood Springs a month ago, I began it more as a way for me to clarify my thoughts on things that are going on in Glenwood Springs. Writing, for me, is a way to analyze information and organize my view. This process has been interesting. It has garnered some attention that I didn’t really anticipate from entities like City Council and the Glenwood Post Independent. I really appreciate the recognition of my effort – and truly that is all it is – just an effort to try to bring some facts to people. I love the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” This blog does not address any national crisis – although there are several worthy of addressing – but this blog seeks to stick to the local, Glenwood Springs issues. However, like Lincoln, I am also a firm believer that the people, when given the facts, with make appropriate decisions based on those facts.

Another great statesman, John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” This is what has driven me to spend many hours and sleepless nights, reading and researching. Although I have been a resident of Glenwood Springs for nearly 45 years, I wanted to step out of my prefabricated interpretations and, dare I say it, prejudices – to try to find the facts and separate them from assumption and speculation and misinformation that seem to abound. Predictions of blight and vermin infested vacated downtown buildings are no more accurate than being able to return to the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s where Grand Avenue was an idyllic boulevard with trees forming a canopy shading vehicles traveling to and from the mining town of Aspen and points in between.

Yesterday, citizens of Glenwood Springs, along with business owners, and other interested individuals had the chance to get a glimpse of the height and width of the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge structure. Last night was the first of two planned evenings of public hearings regarding the proposed Access Control Plan. We also learned that the Chamber Resort Association is working to get a mediated “town hall” type of meeting together so that City Council can engage in a dialog with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders over the big three; the bridge, the ACP and a bypass. I certainly hope that the Chamber is able to bring that meeting to fruition.

I found one aspect of yesterday’s meetings very encouraging. The respectful and reasonable comments made by both the citizens commenting and Council was heartening. Yes, I did hear some derogatory remarks generally muttered under breath or for the benefit of someone seated or standing nearby but this was, in my opinion, a far more beneficial assemblage than I have witnessed.

Not unlike other meetings, most were concerned about the impact of the bridge and the ACP on the downtown. This is not to say that other areas were not considered or discussed, but much of the comment involved the downtown area. Some feared that the larger bridge would create a tunnel or canyon effect on the area of Grand Avenue from 7th to 8th Streets and that businesses would be ‘sacrificed” for the bridge. There was concern about emergency access and the potential of closing alleys. There were questions about the real need for a new bridge. Terry Stark thought the issue of a bridge should be brought to a vote of the citizens of Glenwood Springs, but others maintained that the bridge is a regional issue. The scale and mass of the proposed bridge was questioned. Manette Anderson stated that she thought a 3-D model was needed, sooner than later, to help the community visualize the bridge. Several members of City Council agreed and said they had hoped to see that prior to the meeting.

Prior to the Access Control presentation by Michelle Hansen a traffic consultant with Stolfus and Associates, Councilor Todd Leahy asked Michelle to explain the how SH 82 through Glenwood Springs is currently managed under the States Access Control Code. Michelle explained that under the current state code, adopted in 1981 and revised once in 2002, the only access guaranteed to any parcel is a right-in-right-out access. If development/redevelopment of a property occurs and it increases traffic to that property by 20 percent, then the owner/developer must file for an access permit. She emphasized that the current Access Code does not take into consideration land use and it is very rigid in its application. She also stated that it is not equitable as access is granted on a first-come-first-served basis. The advantage to adopting an ACP is that it gives the City a say in how things are managed. While it is an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) and legally binding, it can be amended. She stated that in Colorado State Transportation Region 3, of which Glenwood is a part, five requests for amendments have been requested and all five requests were approved.

During her comments to Council after the presentation, Karen Price stated that it was very helpful to know what the existing policy was. She also mentioned that she spoke with Chief of Police Terry Wilson and he explained that emergency access including firefighting procedure would not be much different with a new bridge than it was now. She said she appreciated his explanation. However, she wondered what the impact of the new bridge and the ACP would have on community events like the Strawberry Days Parade, Downtown Farmer’s Market. She also wondered whether adequate consideration had been given to ADA issues.

Bob Andre and John Burg stated they thought the process that had been undertaken for the bridge and the ACP was good. Mr. Burg emphasized that pedestrian movement must be considered particularly in the downtown. He stated that downtown Glenwood was special and he knew the DDA was working to make sure key issues were addressed.

Chris McGovern spoke twice, once regarding the bridge and the second time regarding the ACP. Perhaps she will forward me her comments on the bridge for use in this blog. Regarding the ACP she questioned the wisdom of the use of U-turns throughout town as a solution due to the fact that many people misjudge the turning radius of their vehicles. She encouraged more public meetings as planned by the Chamber.

Councilor Dave Sturges mentioned that he was not convinced that the ACP was a better option than the current Access Code and it would allow the City more say. He is very concerned with the impact on 8th, 9th and 10th streets and sees this as an opportunity to enhance the downtown experience for visitors and residents alike.

County resident John Haines mentioned that he talked with Governor Hickenlooper briefly in Snowmass on Wednesday evening and was given the name of a contact at the Governor’s office for further discussion regarding the Grand Avenue Bridge as he did not feel the Governor received both sides of the story from his brief meeting with City Council.

Members of City Council emphasized that while they are unanimous in their opinion that a new bridge is needed and that the proposed alignment is the best, many aspects of the bridge are not set in stone, including the design and aesthetics and the 8th Street configuration and the pedestrian bridge. They also stated that, regarding the ACP, they are still gathering information and listening to comments and suggestions and will weigh the concerns, considerations and suggestions very carefully before making a final decision. They encouraged the community to continue to give them feedback via email and Councilor Bershenyi restated that he is happy to meet with anyone for coffee and discussion.

With this blog, I simply wanted to get some information out about the comments from last night’s meeting. If you feel I have not accurately represented your comments, or you wish to add additional comments, please feel free to add to the discussion in the form of a comment. As an editorial comment I wish to say that this City Council faces some of the most burdensome and potentially divisive issues to come before this body for many years. We, as citizens, rather than criticizing and condemning them should be doing everything we can to assist them in making the best, most sagacious decisions possible for our community. I think we are moving in that direction. Let’s continue to keep the discussion positive and thoughtful.

Sumner Schachter Letter to City Council

This letter by Sumner Schachter was forwarded to me by Chris McGovern with the request that it be posted. Happy to comply.

Dear Council Members,

I am writing you to express some of my views and encourage you to stop or delay the Hwy 82/Glenwood Access plan and focus all of your attention and the town’s attention on the Grand Avenue Bridge.

My belief is that the current bridge replacement and the access plan are not in Glenwood’s best interest at this time. They seem to be driven by the needs and goals of CDOT for facilitating traffic from I-70 through Glenwood. Those goals have not been aligned with ours. Let’s fine tune, reaffirm and adopt what is best for Glenwood and then have CDOT work with us to see how their needs mesh with ours. While it might have been better if the catalyst for the bridge would have been us, it is occurring. The replacement of the Grand Avenue bridge is not currently a high priority for GS. I doubt it would have come up by this council . It does not seem to be a high priority mentioned in other studies. It is a CDOT and (I70) priority—they have the specific funds and ‘our’ bridge does not meet their functional needs and seems to slow traffic on 82 and also limits the eastbound entrance to I70. So they have made it their priority to replace it and therefore it is on your plate instead of a more comprehensive and detailed transportation plan that includes, finally, an 82 plan, our downtown development, pedestrian and bike traffic, eighth street realignment and possible river front development—the elements in the comp. plan.

The bridge replacement may be going forward whether we like it or not. Nevertheless, we should be able to exert leverage and input to make the auto and pedestrian/bike bridge construction and design as good as possible. It seems to me that the access plan is diverting attention from the bridge, confusing much of the community, creating additional opposition to the bridge project and not necessary for Glenwood at this time. While the process developed by CDOT and consultants is engaging and well orchestrated, the product seems unnecessary and, perhaps, flawed. Let’s not let great process mask poor judgment and planning.

I think it would be much healthier for our town and the ‘political’ process if Glenwood will adopt a comprehensive long term transportation plan—autos, trucks, buses,
pedestrians, bikes, emergency access and egress—from the elements of the many studies already done including the COS. While the revised comp plan addresses some of this, it is not a specific long term strategic and action plan for implementation. If we had a plan, then we would be more clear with CDOT and insistent that they mesh their needs with ours. If not by design, then by circumstance, a big portion of the future of our downtown and small town character and long delayed transportation issues have come up during your term(s).

So, please stop the Access Plan study (for now), continue to focus on the bridge and its many implications for Glenwood and include the dissenters/critics in the process and don’t close ranks. As far as the COS, nothing is impossible. The Glenwood Canyon, Snowmass Canyon, Edwards, CO…were all thought impossible and unaffordable at some point in the past.

I urge you to drop the access plan and turn all focus on the bridge.
Please try to:
1. Make sure that the final design is worthy of a long term gateway to our town.
2. Make sure that the construction of this bridge would not preclude any of the options in the COS. I do believe that completion of this bridge will make an “alternate route” option for Glenwood a much lower priority to CDOT and Federal funds since the new bridge would solve most of their ‘problems ‘, but not ours.
3. Make sure that a pedestrian bridge and bikeway is included at their cost.
4. Try to get the bridge as narrow as possible and impact the 7th to 8th street block as little as possible.
5. Make sure that an 8th street realignment is still possible if the city decides to go ahead with that option. Keep 8th and Grand as accessible pedestrian intersection.
6. Bring more discussion and groups to the table. There have been many letters opposed to the bridge and there is the Save Grand Ave. group also. I have not seem similar support for ‘build the bridge’. That doesn’t mean it does not exist. However, it seems that there are more voices to be heard and more time should be spent listening to those voices and building participation.
7. Make sure that Glenwood can function during construction. I don’t think that has been clarified well enough yet.
8. Try to include noise and visual mitigation to 7th-9th street on Grand Avenue wherever possible.

Thanks for listening and for your hard work and service.

Sincerely,
Sumner Schachter
1204 Blake (PO Box 61)
Glenwood Springs

CDOT Region 3 Director Responds

Mr. Burg:

I appreciate your taking the time to write to me, and the project teams, as well as share your comments in the public forum that is Kathy Trauger’s blog. It is beneficial for all involved that we maintain this type of constructive discussion as part of the public involvement processes for these two projects. Thank you for your insight regarding the Grand Avenue Bridge study and comments about the public involvement. I do hope you’ll be able to attend one of the two Story Poling events on March 7.

Regarding the Access Control Plan, it does not eliminate parking on SH 82 nor create medians. What it does is provide the mechanism for the City of Glenwood to place future medians in SH 82, if they so choose. Obviously, a project of that magnitude would have to have its own public process that evaluates how parking would be replaced elsewhere, exactly what the limits of the medians would be, and more. The ACP does none of that. When thinking about the possibility of medians and removal of parking on parts of Hwy 82, it is important to remember that part of the concept of that project places a grass/landscaped strip between the highway and the adjacent sidewalk, which is a big safety improvement for pedestrians. Also, medians, if constructed, would facilitate pedestrian crossings of the highway as well.

I appreciate that you agree that removal of the left-hand turns from SH 82 to 8th Street makes sense for a number of reasons (bridge width being the primary reason). If this is done, however, it would not be possible to maintain left turns and a through movement from 8th Street, as you state you would like. The only way to prevent left-hand turns from SH 82 is with some sort of median or barrier. It is not reasonable to expect that a sign on the signal arm stating “No Lefts” would prevent motorists from attempting to make left turns from SH 82 from a through lane. The resulting unlawful left-turn movements would cause safety and mobility problems for everyone else on SH 82. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where a compromise is going to be needed.

CDOT, the City and the DDA are working hard to better develop the alternatives for 8th Street. We have defined the alternatives, and will soon be presenting those alternatives at a number of meetings. The primary question is, “Will the community accept a bridge platform wide enough to accommodate left-turn lanes?” We hope to settle that question in the next two weeks. Following that, there will be a City Council workshop where we hope the final configuration is decided on.

Again, thank you for writing and for bringing attention to some very key issues.

Sincerely,

David Eller, CDOT R3 Director