Husband: Hey, we got a ballot in the mail. I didn’t know there was an election.
Me: There isn’t. Is it for the Grand Avenue Bridge?
Husband: From Citizens to Save Grand Avenue.
Me: I heard that was coming. They are trying to get a reading on what the citizens want.
Husband: So who gets to fill it out? There is only one. What if we don’t agree?
Me: Hmmm, good point . . .
So if you live in the City of Glenwood Springs you may have received an envelope addressed to Local Postal Customer. This is a well-intended effort on the part of the group Citizen’s to Save Grand Avenue to see how the citizens of Glenwood Springs feel about the replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge. It looks fairly official. It is stamped BALLOT on the front but clarifies on the top of the ballot that it is a Public Opinion Ballot. It comes with arguments for and against.
The wording on the ballot states that “This ballot is sponsored by Citizens to Save Grand Avenue and will allow you to express your choices regarding the current plan to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge.” Then it asks the questions:
A. Should the Glenwood Spring City Council stop the current plan allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to replace the current Grand Avenue Bridge
B. Should the Glenwood Spring City Council initiate long-range planning with CDOT now to get Hwy 82 off Grand Avenue?
Then there is a place for two printed names and signatures along with addresses.
While I admire the spunk of the C2SGA group there are at least three issues with this ballot that will essentially render any results invalid.
The first problem is that of a false choice. Question A intimates that the city has the authority to allow or disallow CDOT to replace the bridge on a State Highway. This is simply not the case. The State of Colorado, specifically Colorado Department of Transportation, is responsible for the 9,146 mile highway system that includes 3,447 bridges. The Grand Avenue Bridge has been deemed functionally obsolete due to four deficiencies:
- The bridge is too narrow with lane widths of 9’4”
- There is insufficient vertical clearance at 7th Street – as low as 12’ in some areas
- Substandard horizontal clearance along I-70 eastbound to the bridge piers
- Substandard horizontal clearance along I-70 westbound to the bridge piers
The bridge was rated “satisfactory” in a bridge inspection in 2010. However, there are signs of deteriorations in the concrete curbs and piers, exposed reinforcing steel on the curbs and piers, corrosion on the railing, girder corrosion, damage at 7th Street due to vehicle impact, and corrosion on bridge supports. Additionally, the load capacity is 55% of new bridge design standards.
The funding is through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) and assuming that after the devastating flooding on the eastern slope there are still funds available, this fund is to be used for bridge repair and/or replacement only.
The bottom line is that CDOT is working with the City of Glenwood Springs, but it is CDOT’s responsibility to make sure that the bridges on their state highway system are safe. If they are not, they will be repaired or replaced at the will of the State. The city cannot tell CDOT to stop. If the State determines the bridge needs to be replaced due to safety concerns, CDOT will take whatever steps necessary to get the job done.
The second problem is with question B. I doubt there are many that would say the City should NOT explore some other options for routes in/out and around our town. This was particularly apparent during the Coal Seam Fire. However, it is important to keep in mind this has been the topic of discussion for at least 50 years. The problem goes back to the dialog between me and my husband. We often disagree on the best choice, whether it is where to go for dinner or what brand of appliance to buy or what route to take to a favorite camping spot. So it goes for Glenwood. The Citizens of Glenwood have NEVER come to a consensus on where or if there should be ways to get through or around town that do not include Grand Avenue. Perhaps there has not been enough vision about ALL of the possibilities. Perhaps just one more study will provide the answer. But question B indicates “long-range” planning. I am not sure our sick old bridge will be around long enough to see what a long-range plan will be. Can we afford to take the chance with the lives of thousands of people who cross it daily?
The third problem again goes back to my conversation with my husband and the fact that we may not agree with each other. I am not a statistician, or a have I ever conducted a sampling but it seems to me that a sampling error is possible.
As sociologist Herbert Gans stated that “polls are answers to questions rather than opinions.” The answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask. But, I’ve got to admire their determination!
What do you think?