So . . . what do we do with the traffic?

Question.  Where does all the traffic go during the Grand Avenue Bridge construction?

This question may not keep you up at night, but I guarantee it is keeping some folks awake.

Even with what the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) terms an “accelerated bridge construction” dealing with the day to day challenge of getting from the north side of the Colorado River to the south side and back may be –shall we say – a “challenge.”  Accelerated bridge construction would necessitate the bridge being totally closed to traffic for approximately two months under a best case scenario. 

So what is the solution to getting people into and through Glenwood Springs during this potentially painful period?

Introducing . . .  the “8th Street Connection”

The current expectation is that CDOT will be allowed to temporarily cut the railroad track in the wye area and build a temporary detour from the bridge that spans the Roaring Fork north of Veltus Park to 8th street, in front of Glenwood Springs City Hall and the Garfield County Courthouse.  This will come with the approval of the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Temp_8th_Street_Connection

Graphic courtesy of Craig Gaskill, and Jacobs Engineering

Currently, vehicles coming from Midland Avenue into the downtown must use an underpass along 7th Street.  This underpass does not meet minimum CDOT height and width requirements. Trucks are the biggest concern. In order to use 7th Street, the street would need to be lowered or the tracks raised.  This connection is also a very dangerous path for pedestrians and bicyclists.


Current 7th Street Connection to Midland Avenue 6-15-13 - SMALL

It is anticipated that Midland Avenue to 27th Street and the Sunlight Bridge will also carry a fair amount of detour traffic, particularly for those heading up-valley.  However, there are concerns with the Sunlight Bridge.  CDOT is planning some improvements to that bridge in anticipation of construction.

An 8th Street Connection also affords the City of Glenwood an additional opportunity to accomplish a major goal – a permanent connection linking Midland Avenue to 8th Street.   City staff and City Council members, in a recent workshop with the city’s Transportation Ted_quoteCommission, made it clear that this 8th Street Connection now tops the list of city priorities.  According to City Council member Ted Edmonds, “The City Council has been very clear to staff — this is the number one priority. This is the biggest deal that is on our plate. This is the thing that should take precedence over other projects, if necessary.”

With so many stakeholders in the process,  there are many loose ends and unknowns.  However,  it is also an excellent example of the partnership between Glenwood Springs and CDOT and, potentially, others that could be beneficial to all.

 

What’s the big deal?Question_Mark

You may wonder why this is truly a BIG deal for the city. Here are seven reasons city staff, city council and the transportation commission must continue to make this the top priority:

  1. A permanent connection increases the connectivity and improves the circulation within the city of Glenwood Springs, a goal of the Comprehensive Plan, the Corridor Optimization Plan and the Long Range Transportation Plan
  2. Without at least a temporary connection, CDOT could opt to scrap the accelerated bridge construction in favor of a more drawn out process, one that could last 12 to 18 months but would allow traffic to still use the Grand Avenue Bridge or
  3. Midland Avenue to 27th Street could be used as the primary detour route for trucks which would impact the residents along Midland to a greater degree
  4. The city would lose the opportunity to have some of the costs for a permanent connection paid for by CDOT in association with the Grand Avenue Bridge project
  5. It will greatly improve pedestrian and bicycle safety from the Red Mountain area and Two River’s Park to the downtown area
  6. It will connect the downtown to the Confluence area and the potential commercial, housing, and recreational uses that may be developed.
  7. This connection has the potential to positively affect RFTA by providing a more direct route and easier passage for their buses.  

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on this connection at some point in the future as it moves through City Council.  However, you don’t have to wait!  Please take a few minutes to let me know what you think now!

Top priorities for Glenwood . . .are there others?

At the end of a recent blog post http://wp.me/p3S5Sv-3v I asked the question, “What do you think are the three top priorities that Glenwood should be addressing over the next 3 years?”   Some of the responses I received were expected and some were surprising.

 As promised, here are the results I have received thus far.  I have put them in alphabetical order, so there is no ranking involved.   Along with the larger categories are a few comments associated with the items.

Small beach on Roaring Fork River in Confluence area

 

  •  Authenticity
    •         Offer a more authentic experience for Glenwood visitors
    •         Emphasis on natural outdoor experience and healthy recreation and living
    •         Promotion of visual and performing arts
  • Communication
    •         Find ways to increase communication with citizens
    •         Innovative and multiple ways to communicate
    •         Develop methods/techniques/means for citizens to talk with elected    officials, boards and commissions
    •         Ongoing dialog needed – citizens get frustrated and give up
    •         Make information easily and readily accessible to the public
    •         Increase transparency
  • Confluence Redevelopment
    •         Make this are area that pulls the town together
    •         Make this a focal point for Glenwood
  • Economic Development
    •         Long-term, sustainable economic development needed
    •         Shared vision and strategy
    •         Public-Private Partnerships
    •         Work within the community to define direction and priorities
  • Housing
    •         Expand in-town choices
    •         More inventory needed in core areas
  • Leadership
    •         Identify and develop leaders in the community
    •         Determine how to get new, different, younger people involved
    •         Improve the working relationship between City staff, elected officials, boards and commission
    •         Expand communication, cooperation and collaboration with other governmental entities within the region
  • Long-term Fiscal Health
    •         Develop strategies for dealing with an increasing demand for infrastructure, services and long-term operations/maintenance
    •         Seek ways to increase efficiencies in providing services
    •         Increase the cooperation between community development and capital improvement planning
    •         Identify efficient patterns of growth

 Grand Ave by Sacred Grounds 4-5-13

  • Mobility/Transportation
    •         Improve connectivity of local network
    •         Improve bike/pedestrian facilities on existing streets
    •         Improve coordination between land use patterns and transit system – regionally
    •         Complete the Grand Avenue Bridge to maximize the benefit to Glenwood Springs and the entire region
    •         Make the hard decisions to improve north/south travel through Glenwood with an eye on practicality and the chance of it actually getting to completion
    •         Develop a Regional Transportation Master Plan
    •         Development of  Midland Avenue as an alternate route is waiting to happen
    •         Completion of South Bridge is critical
    •         Need an 8th Street connection to Midland Avenue
    •         A 14th Street connection to Midland Avenue is needed
    •         27th Street Bridge must be improved

 

6th Street Looking East Spring 2013

  • North Glenwood
    •         Currently blighted but new bridge alignment provides motivation for a new vision
    •         Has the location, infrastructure, businesses, entrepreneurs and property owners to partner with City
    •         Need to identify leaders to make this happen
  • Performing Arts Facility
    •         Focus energy on planning for the best possible facility in the best possible location

My intention is to make this an ongoing list and to address each item in upcoming posts.  Do you have additional items that should be added to this list?  Would you like to comment on any of the suggestions?  If so, please do!  You can comment on this blog or submit a comment via the form at the end of the blog.  Thanks to all who contributed and I hope to be able to continue the conversation with each of you.

I am pleased to have been selected by the Sonoran Institute to attend the Glenwood Springs Community Development Academy which will be commencing Monday evening, September 16th.  I hope to tell you about some of the discussions as we progress through the eight week journey to make Glenwood Springs even better than it is now.

Momentum

8th and Grand 6-15-13

8th & Grand Ave, Glenwood Springs

I am a “play by the rules” kind of person.  I am the one in the office that loves the thought of creating policies and then developing procedures to follow.  Maybe this is one reason that I am drawn to serve on the local Planning Commission . . . that and I drive my family and a few others crazy with my never ending passion for planning . . . everything . . . gardens, vacations, dinners, cleaning  . . . whatever.  What I have learned over the years is that, for me, the planning is the fun and easy part.  Getting it done  . . . well that is another story.   Herein lies another problem.  I am also a bit of a perfectionist.  Ok, you may not know that from looking at my garden, or my home, or my blog.

The funny thing is that I am not alone – apparently.  In my short tenure – four years – with the Planning Commission and in working with other municipal committees, commissions, councils and personnel, I have come to realize that the planning, the visioning, the dreaming is the easy and fun part.  It is the roll-up-your-sleeves, grab a shovel, get your hands dirty putting those dusty plans into action that is infinitely more difficult.  Why is that?

Part of it is that we are all, to some degree, perfectionists.  We want whatever we do to be the Martha Stewart dinner party, the perfect vacation that our family will always remember, the garden that the neighbors oooh and aaah over.  For some of us, when the weeds start  taking over the garden, or the dust bunnies start reproducing in the corners, we throw up our hands and quit.  Things are not quite as easy as we envisioned.  We give up.

The other issue is that, whether you really want to admit it or not, we generally have a desire to be liked and to please people.  Face it, whether you are dealing with a family or a group of citizens, you are not going to make everyone happy all the time.  In fact, you will probably irritate almost everyone at one time or another.   Making decisions and taking a stand is quite frankly hard work.  My job as a Planning Commission member is aided by a few things, ordinances, codes, and laws – all those things I find comforting in their structure.  However, these same things  – and the beaurocracy that can be associated with it can be stifling to the most productive of those among us.

For many years I have heard the term “political will.”   “All it takes is political will.”  Maybe.  Is that the same as political power?   But “power” is a strong word that brings visions and potential of abuse.

Last week at the Glenwood Springs City Council meeting I heard another word – perhaps one more fitting to the events happening in Glenwood Springs right now.  That word is “momentum.”  Councilor Todd Leahy used it to describe what is happening in Glenwood Springs right now.  He is right.  Glenwood Springs is in a unique position at this moment in time.   I have rarely seen the synergy between entities that have never been at the same table before as I have in the last few months. We have CDOT, Union Pacific, RFTA, Garfield County,  city staff and city council, along with others,  in various stages of planning and doing . . . working on the hard stuff . . .  the stuff that forges long term agreements and clears the way for perhaps one of the most exciting times in Glenwood Spring history.  Will it please everyone? Not a chance.  But in my opinion, we would be negligent to miss this chance to get something done!

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Apricot Tree in full bloom!
Apricot Tree

Apricot Tree

Some of us remember the song, Turn! Turn! Turn! written by Pete Seeger and made popular by the Byrds in 1965.  The song is based on Ecclesiastes3:1-8 (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

In my back yard, my fruit trees are blooming and a pair of little finches furiously building a nest above my front door.  My 17-year-old cat stands guard at the door waiting to be allowed outside to bask in the warmth of the sun on our deck. My very shaggy Goldendoodle and Cairn terrier are in desperate need of a clipping to keep them cool. Snow is giving way to rain. Yes, the seasons are changing and I welcome it with open arms.

Change is in the air at City Hall as well.  I welcome a new Mayor, Leo McKinney and thank Matt Steckler for his time while serving as Mayor.  Councilor Steckler continues to serve as a very effective member of City Council.  Both Councilor Steckler and now-Mayor McKinney ran unopposed in April’s election.  Congratulations go out to Stephen Bershenyi, our resident blacksmith, for winning re-election to a second term in City Council against Lyle Beattie.   Mr. Beattie should be commended for stepping up and throwing his hat in the ring.   I hope I am half as engaged and energetic as he is in a few years.  What a dedicated public servant he has been for Glenwood Springs over the years!

Dave Sturges, while willing and capable, did not succeed in his wish to become mayor. Still, he serves a very valuable leadership role on City Council.  While he has been known to pontificate, he brings a balancing opinion to this council. His extensive background and experience serves him well in this role. Besides, he is just a nice guy to talk with.

The remaining three City Council members, not up for re-election this year, continue to serve this community well, if not contentiously.  Todd Leahy and Mike Gamba bring a decidedly conservative perspective.  Both Councilor Leahy and Gamba bring a down-to-earth, realistic view of issues.  They have had the opportunity to see the concerns and issues from a developer/engineer side as well as from the apparently thankless position on the dais. I admire their straight-forward attitude.

Councilor Ted Edmonds is still the most enigmatic of our City Council members to me.  A numbers guy, I am told, he is probably the least loquacious member of Council, but he continues to surprise me.

At any rate – tonight’s City Council meeting had a slightly different tenor. There was a discussion of the Thompson Divide Lease Suspension of which there was unanimous Council support for an Appeal of the BLM decision, prepared by Pitkin County.

Of course the Access Control Plan (ACP) drew much of the usual crowd; John Haines, Karen Price, Hal Sundin, Cheryl Cain, Tony Rosa and Terry Stark.  While many complained that there is still no dialog between Council and the opponents of the ACP and/or the bridge, both Council and the group, most of which are part of the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue (C2SGA) seemed to be amenable to sitting down, possibly over a bowl of spaghetti –with proper public notice of course – and further discussing matters.  Of course there is always the phone – all of the City Council contact information is available on the City’s website:  http://www.cogs.us/council/contact.htm

And Councilor Bershenyi’s Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-Bershenyi-City-council-news/485499551498590?fref=ts

And of course – there is this blog – which welcomes comments and guest contributions.

Terry Stark raised a good point – one that I hope to address more satisfactorily than I have in the past – and that is:  Show me the facts that the ACP will help – or at least not damage – the local economy and local businesses.   Stay tuned.

Still there is a call for a Transportation Master plan.  Since I am such a new member of the Transportation Commission, I don’t feel qualified to comment other than to remind everyone that you are welcome to come to the City of Glenwood Springs Transportation Commission meetings.  The next one is Tuesday, May 7th, at 7:30 a.m. in the Engineering Department conference room on the 2nd floor of City Hall.  BYOC (Bring your own coffee . . . I learned that my first meeting . . .)

While I am on the subject of Boards and Commissions – here is a GOLDEN opportunity for you to be involved in your community . . .  The Planning and Zoning Commission is looking for two community members to serve as alternates on the Planning Commission.  We meet monthly and sometimes hold a work session as well.  It does require a commitment of time, but you will be making a valuable contribution to the community!  Contact me at 379-4849 or ktrauger@rof.net if you want more information.

One more reminder – a design charrette (fancy French term for meeting where everyone can comment and participate) for the Confluence area will be held May 21st through 23rd.  This is a very vital piece of our town and your recommendations, input, comments are critical.  More information will be forthcoming shortly.

Stay tuned as well for an update on the Grand Avenue Bridge project . . .

Spring is upon us in Glenwood Springs. And what a glorious time it is!   Here’s to a renewed energy toward cooperation, consensus building and moving forward.  There is a season . . . and a time for everything under Heaven . . .  and our time is now.

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!