“Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”
Glenwood Springs could be looking at a game changer for the Grand Avenue Bridge. Changes in personnel and attitudes at Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and in the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) have drawn some additional focus on the cost of the Grand Avenue Bridge. Other State projects are vying for attention . . . and funds. Currently the Grand Avenue Bridge remains on CDOT’s list of “Significant Projects,” at number 20, with a budget of $21.7 million. It is the ONLY significant project on the Western Slope. http://www.coloradodot.info/about/transportation-commission/documents/2014/march-2014/02ProgramManagementWorkshop.pdf
According to a February 2014 memo, CDOT has recently moved from an obligation based budgeting process to a cash management, expenditure-based system. Joe Elsen, Program Engineer, for CDOT said that is a big change. He explained it by stating the obligation based system required all the funds for the project to be “in the bank” before it could be advertised. He compared the obligation based budgeting to saving up the entire cost of your dream house before you could build it. The expenditure-based method is more akin to being able to finance that dream home.
Under the new expenditure based program, CDOT would budget for yearly planned expenses, hence the $20 million in the current budget. Elsen emphasized that the dollars need to be there when needed, so that is why schedules and cost accuracy become critical.
In current schedule the final design and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision documents are due in February of 2015 – a deadline that seems almost impossible to meet. According to Craig Gaskill, consultant team manager on the project, the environmental assessment (EA) has been delayed by decisions on the bridge alignment, design of the pedestrian bridge, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues and how the detour should work. Gaskill emphasized that while it has been difficult to determine the best solution for those issues, it was important to go through the process. However, given the funding realities, the schedule becomes more important and he stated that “we’ve pretty much run out of schedule flexibility.”
That being said, several have voiced concerns over how decisions are being made and the public process. As anyone who has ever served on a committee knows, decisions are not always easy. Getting to consensus can be difficult. CDOT has involved the public in the process. At first, the open-houses were well attended. City Council chambers were filled. All of the various teams associated with this project can be a little overwhelming. There is a Project Working Group, a Project Leadership Team, and a Stakeholders’ Working Group. Then there have been various task forces.
In addition to the current lack of interest on the part of the public, the fact is that there seems to be waning support for the Grand Avenue Bridge among the upper levels of CDOT and the CBE due to personnel changes and budget constraints. Incidentally, the Colorado Transportation Commission serves as the Colorado Bridge Enterprise Board. That is not to say that there is no support or that the project is in imminent danger, but the priority seems to be turning back to the front range.
Who is calling the shots?
The fact remains that the Grand Avenue Bridge is both functionally obsolete and structurally insufficient. The fact is also that Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley is a major tourist destination for the State of Colorado, bringing millions into the state coffers.
So, in my opinion, this begs the question: Who and where are the decisions about the future of Glenwood Springs being made? The Project Leadership Team (PLT), the Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) and the various task forces, are advisory groups to the Project Working Group (PWG). We have been told that it is the PWG that makes the decisions.
CDOT’s web site does not list the individuals on the Project Working Group it simply lists organizations represented including: CDOT Region3; CDOT Staff Bridge; Colorado Bridge Enterprise; Federal Highway Administration, Colorado Division; City of Glenwood Springs; Consultant Team. Who are the representatives from these various agencies? Can the minutes from the PWG meetings be made available to make this process more transparent? Was consensus reached by the PWG on all issues?
As we move into difficult decisions about priorities for our bridge, the citizens of Glenwood Springs should be privy to those decision and the basis on which they are made. They directly impact our lives. Since it is difficult to find anything to laugh about in this case, changes in attitude may indeed make us all go insane.
For More Information:
Below is a link to a more recent update – dated April 17, 2014, from Scott Richrath, CDOT Chief Financial Officer and Scott McDaniel, CDOT Acting Chief Engineer to the Transportation Commission:
Colorado Bridge Enterprise Fund: http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/BridgeEnterprise
CDOT SH 82/Grand Avenue Bridge website: http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge