Update Sept 2015 – Budget, Homeless, and More!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult. 

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles KeltySince we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 154pm – 6pm

Oct 20Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015:  CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement and first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

Does EA stand for Eaten Alive?

Battered and bruised at the Grand Avenue Bridge EA hearing

I am feeling a little bit beaten up and if I am feeling that way, I can only imagine what Joe Elsen must be feeling.  To say that the public hearing on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Grand Avenue Bridge was interesting is a bit of an understatement.

GAB EA CoverThe Good

The night was not without merit. Some universal themes repeated themselves, the best of which, in my opinion had nothing to do with CDOT or the Grand Avenue Bridge.  That is regional transportation planning.

Regional Transportation Planning

I fully support the idea of regional transportation planning.  It is high time that Garfield, Eagle & Pitkin counties, along with the municipalities of Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, Snowmass, and Aspen form a Regional Transportation Commission to address regional needs.  That need is apparent with the Grand Avenue Bridge and it also came to the forefront with the FedEx approval. 

I would suggest that a 12 member Regional Transportation Commission be formed, consisting of a single representative from each of the above counties and municipalities.  I would also suggest that a representative from RFTA be included, making up the 12th member. I would suggest that a CDOT representative be included as an ex officio member.  Like it or not, they are a major player in transportation in our area and we need their voice at the table.

One Voice

For project funding and statewide support, we —this region — must speak with one voice.  We are competing with major metropolitan areas and we can no longer afford to compete with one another for the extremely limited transportation funding available.

The first charge of this group would be to develop a 25-30 year regional transportation plan. Only then can shorter range solutions be found.  This doesn’t have to be rocket science and studies costing hundreds of thousands of dollars are not needed.  Bring existing plans to the table and see what are common needs, and what are the greatest impact to the region. Start simply and build a strong plan.

Time

Mayor Leo McKinney appealed to CDOT to extend the length of the comment period, if for no other reason than to give city staff a chance to thoroughly study and adequately comment on the EA. This also would give the public a better chance to read and try to understand what is contained in this document. A 30-60 day extension seems to be a good idea.

Negative is more compelling

I love the passion that people have for Glenwood and for the region.  It was a good turnout and no, I don’t think John Haines or the Citizens to Save Grand Avenue “stuffed the ballot box” so to speak. But frankly, as humans, we are far more comfortable complaining than we are expressing how satisfied we are.  When I was in advertising many years ago, there was an adage that people who had a bad experience were likely to tell 10 people, but those that had a good experience were likely to share it with no one. I have personally talked with many who are very much in favor of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. Were they at the meeting tonight? No. Most were home playing with their children, helping with homework, visiting friends, or out for a brisk bike ride. Will they take the time to comment on the EA? Probably not. That is the unfortunate reality.

Does the EA have flaws? Absolutely!  And the scope of the project and its purpose are probably some of  the largest.  A much larger area should have been considered – an area covering Midland to 27th Street at least.  This would open a more likely partnership on a permanent 8th Street Connection .  The purpose statement of the EA is weak.  It does not address the regional importance of the bridge.

The Bad . . . this is gonna hurt

fist fight

Frankly I am going to irritate some people by what I say next.  As an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, one of his quotes comes to mind:

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

I believe my feet are in the right place, so here goes.

There were many comments from people tonight who, as sincere and impassioned as they were, had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.  They may have thought they have all the information they need, and that the information they have is accurate, correct, and complete, but there are some suggestions and recommendations that absolutely fly in the face of reality. 

“Tell City Council to stop this.”

Seriously?  How?  It is the State’s bridge.  It is the State’s highway.  Could CDOT walk away from this? Maybe . . . but then what?  What if CDOT said, fine – the bridge and Grand Avenue through town is yours, Glenwood.  You maintain it. You replace it.  Do you think city sales tax, the minuscule amount of property tax and lodging tax is going to cover that? I don’t think so.

Ah . . . the Bypass

I am not anti bypass.  Let me be clear.

However, two questions loom and no one tonight addressed the biggest one.

1. Where? 

and the biggie . . .

2. How do “we” pay for it?

For the where – I heard some suggestions.  Twin tunnels from Canyon Creek to South Bridge. Cut and cover tunnel along the railroad corridor. Just condemn some houses and go along the old railroad. No problem.  Well . . . maybe it’s not that easy.

pennies from heavenLet’s talk money 

No one addressed the financial piece.  Several said there “must” be some money “somewhere” for this. If you think so, then please come forward with a concrete suggestion.  And again I heard, ‘just move the money from Grand Avenue Bridge and build a bypass.”  Is anyone listening?  Even if you had Governor Hickenlooper’s support for doing that and the backing of the state governing body those funds are constrained. 

The massive amount of repair to the highways to Estes Park were mentioned as an example of found money. Those come from federal emergency funds.  If CDOT walks away from the Grand Avenue Bridge, I certainly hope emergency funds are available in a few years.  We may need them.

If you want funding to build a bypass, then let’s be honest.  It will probably involve TAXES. The Federal Government is not going to roll over and hand us the money.  Rather than calling for a vote whether to allow a new bridge, perhaps Citizens to Save Grand Avenue should be pulling together a referendum to take to regional voters for a tax to fund a bypass.

Insulted

Honestly, I am insulted by some of what I heard tonight.  There have been groups of local citizens, perhaps your friends and neighbors, who have been meeting for months and months, spending hours of their own time pouring over plans, talking with other people,  listening to alternatives, sitting in public meetings, workshops and forums and asking nothing in return.  I have been part of those groups.  I have seen how seriously they have taken their charge.  They have simply been trying to work to bring some resolution to a very real safety concern, and find the best solution for Glenwood Springs. Yet there are armchair quarterbacks stating the process is flawed and the design is bad.  Perhaps it isn’t perfect – but then the next time there is an opening on the Transportation Commission or some other opportunity to give your time – I hope to see you there.  Get out of your armchair and be part of the solution.

If you haven’t read the Environmental Assessment (EA) you can find it here.    To submit a comment send an email to Joe Elsen:  Joseph.Elsen@state.co.us

I could have spoken up at tonight’s meeting, but three minutes was not nearly enough time as it was not for many who spoke.  What do you think?  Am I totally off base?  Let me know.

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!

Dialogue – the way it was meant to be . . .

“When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer relevant. We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation and always keep in mind the interests of others. We cannot destroy our neighbors! We cannot ignore their interests! Doing so would ultimately cause us to suffer.”

Dalai Lama

Over the past five weeks a group of 24 Glenwood Springs citizens have come together over pizza and salad with the help of the folks at the Sonoran Institute in the Glenwood Springs Community Development Academy.  This CDA has involved residents of all ages, with a variety of occupations, some who have been lifelong inhabitants, others who have been in Glenwood for only relatively short period of time. There are business owners, retired individuals, realtors, engineers, artists, financial advisors, educators.  There are those that work in healthcare, in government, in the legal profession, mediators, architects, and work with community development organizations. While a diverse group, these townspeople have not gathered out of conflict but of interest. They have the interest of our community and our neighbors and even our pets at heart.

CDA_2_conference_room

GWS CDA Photo courtesy of the Sonoran Institute

We are slightly over half way through the academy and no matter how drained I may feel after a Monday at work, I always look forward to the lively discussion and respectful exchange of ideas that takes place during the two and a half hours we are together.  Two weeks ago I flew from Dallas to Grand Junction and drove back just in time sit in on the meeting.  Suffice it to say, I value the time we are together.

Thus far, discussions have included looked at elements of successful communities,  leadership & effective decision making, assets, liabilities and community vision, and housing.  Of course no discussion in Glenwood would be complete without talking about subjects near and dear to my heart land use decisions and the impact they have on transportation.

traffic-cartoonJeremy Nelson, with Vialta Group, was the guest speaker last Monday and gave an excellent presentation outlining how our policies, things like the Comprehensive Plans, extol values such as affordable housing, creating mixed-use neighborhoods,  encouraging alternative modes of transportation and creating pedestrian and bicycle safe streets.

Unfortunately, reality is often quite different.  He discussed how frustrated he was, as a visitor to our city, trying to cross Grand Avenue at 8th Street with the extremely long signal sequence.   He pointed out that what signage we have directing our guests to parking, trails and information are few, in poor locations and unreadable to the average person.  He noted that although the speed limit is posted as 25 mph, the further south on Grand Avenue one travels, the faster the traffic moves.  He stated that was partially due to land use decisions we have made with parking lots fronting Grand and extensive building setbacks – giving a more wide-open feeling – leading to increased speeds.

One thing he did mention, which quite frankly surprised some people, was that one of the key principles of smart mobility strategy is that congestion equals economic activity.  He acknowledged that many communities would love to have the traffic that we consider a problem.  He also stated that transportation, like life, is all about tradeoffs.

The next few weeks should provide for more interesting discussion among the group as we talk about such things as barriers and opportunities for redevelopment and revitalization and learn tools for implementing plans focusing on zoning and form-based codes.  Being a bit of a nerd, this stuff is absolutely fascinating to me.  But perhaps the session I am most looking forward to will be the final gathering.  During this meeting, the folks at the Sonoran Institute have assured us that we will learn best practices for fostering increased public participation and nurturing community leadership.  I am looking forward to this session because as I look around the room at the participants in the CDA, I see the future leaders of Glenwood Springs. I sincerely hope that many of these participants will take the next step and continue their participation in the community by remaining involved in the discussions and contributing to the solutions. These will be the men and women who take Glenwood Springs to the next level.

I want to leave you with a question and I would love to hear your responses:  What can we, as a community, do to develop our future leaders?

 

Valid Opinions or answers to the wrong questions?

Ballot Envelope

Ballot Envelope

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”
Narrow lanes on bridge - Photo courtesy of CDOT

Narrow lanes on bridge – Photo courtesy of CDOT

  • 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
    Bridge Piers Adjacent to I-70. Photo Courtesy of CDOT

    Bridge Piers Adjacent to I-70. Photo Courtesy of CDOT

     

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?

 

Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge – What do you think?

The following is a press release from CDOT regarding the Grand Avenue Pedestrian Bridge

News From
The Colorado Department
of Transportation
www.coloradodot.info
Twitter: @coloradodot

Contact: Nancy Shanks, CDOT Public Relations
(970) 385-1428 or (970) 749-3579 mobile
Joe Elsen, CDOT Program Engineer
(970) 384-3332 office, (970) 379-9532 mobile
August 19, 2013
Grand Ave. Bridge EA – Enthusiastic Support for the New Pedestrian Bridge Type

Ped Bridge 1

Glenwood Springs City Council favors simple ped bridge design that complements surrounding environment

GLENWOOD SPRINGS –At an August 1, 2013, workshop with Glenwood Springs City Council, a pedestrian bridge that focused on historic elements consistent with downtown Glenwood Springs was unanimously favored. This was consistent with what the project team had heard from public comments on pedestrian bridge types and features at public meetings, Strawberry Days exhibits and Downtown Market events.

A new pedestrian bridge was not originally part of the Grand Avenue Bridge project. The concept was introduced as part of the overall solution last fall when the project team began looking at how to demolish and construct the highway bridge. There are numerous utilities under the highway bridge that will have to be relocated before the existing bridge can be removed and replaced. The most efficient way to relocate these utilities was to place them on a new pedestrian bridge. The new pedestrian bridge also facilitates accelerated bridge construction techniques, important on this project to minimize impacts.

As this concept was considered in the evaluation process, it became apparent that a new pedestrian bridge would address almost all of the project criteria, including multimodal connectivity; safety and consistency with regional planning. As well, it has the potential to offer better harmony within the community, have reduced overall construction costs, minimize impacts to private property, and reduce overall impacts.

Ped bridge 2

The benefits and issues to consider in replacing the pedestrian bridge were presented at a combined Project Leadership Team/Project Working Group meeting back in October 2012. In November, the project team asked the Stakeholder Working Group to comment on the advantages and disadvantages of a new pedestrian bridge and what the bridge might look like. After initial input from this group, the project team developed a list of 14 potential bridge types that could be considered.

Attendees at the January 9, 2013, Public Open House commented on the 14 bridge type options and how some of them would look when paired with different Grand Avenue Bridge options. In addition to improving on the functionality of the existing bridge, public input suggested that the new pedestrian bridge would need to complement the highway bridge, accommodate both pedestrians and bicycles, and incorporate the aesthetics and historic details that fit the historic context of Glenwood Springs.

The project team considered the public and stakeholder comments at a bridge design workshop held in February. The team’s bridge architect, engineers, and environmental experts discussed the merits and disadvantages of a wide range of bridge types. After two days of discussion, the project team narrowed the 14 options to three options to be considered in more detail. These options were: 1) a single-tower, cable-stayed symmetric span bridge (two equal spans); 2) a single-tower, cable-stayed asymmetric-span bridge (spans of different lengths); and 3) an arch bridge that spans from the south bank to north of I-70.

During the discussions and subsequent evaluations, the project team evaluated the bridge types using several criteria: environmental impacts, site constraints/opportunities, aesthetics, constructability/phasing, schedule, maintenance, cost, span, and other impacts.
Renderings and models were presented to the Glenwood Springs City Council, other stakeholders, and the public while conceptual design details were being developed. There was no overwhelming support for any one of the options. After feedback was received on May 30 from the Stakeholder Working Group and the City Council voiced concerns that the current options did not reflect the character of the community, the project team reset their direction and developed three bridge types to present to the City Council on August 1.

“All of the bridge types we have considered would meet the purpose and need of the project, and would work from an engineering perspective,” CDOT Region 3 Central Program Engineer Joe Elsen said. “The public process helped us come up with the best solution for the community. We listened, redesigned, and now have what we believe to be a winning option that will be cost-effective to design and build.”

The current bridge type is what is called a five-span, variable-depth girder bridge. The 16-foot-wide bridge would be supported by girders under the deck rather than cables and towers above the deck, features found to block the views of the mountains and the river. The bridge would also clear span the Colorado River and incorporate several shorter towers with architectural elements consistent with the historic character of Glenwood Springs. It would accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists, with the potential for overlooks and other amenities.

Ped bridge 3

Gaining the endorsement of the City Council at their August 1st meeting and input from the individuals who have viewed the renderings at the Tuesday Downtown Markets means that the project team can start developing additional design details.

Ped Bridge 4

“Arriving at one solution from where we started was the result of the community’s vision for a context-sensitive design, an open and public process, and a talented group of bridge architects and engineers who were open to considering the range of options until we got it right,” Elsen said.

The public can see conceptual renderings in the lobby of the Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 West 8th Street. The model will also be available every other week at the Downtown Market in Centennial Park Tuesdays from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Those wanting to receive project updates can sign up via CDOT’s free message system by going to http://www.coloradodot.info/ and clicking on green cell phone in the upper right hand side of the page. After signing in, scroll down to “Projects” and choose “SH 82 Aspen to Glenwood.”

The project is funded through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, a government-owned business entity within CDOT. The Colorado General assembly created the statewide Bridge Enterprise via Senate Bill 09-108, also known as FASTER (Funding Advancements for Surface Treatment and Economic Recovery)

http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/transitandrail/resource-materials-new/TRACdocument-SB09-108(FASTER)/view.
http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/BridgeEnterprise

The purpose of the Bridge Enterprise is to complete designated bridge projects that involve the financing, repair, reconstruction and replacement of bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and rated “poor” by CDOT.

Fear, Facts and Frustration

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

Grand Avenue Bridge April 5, 2013

Have you ever had this happen to you?  You are sound asleep in the middle of the night and something wakes you up . . . and then the good ‘ol brain kicks into gear.  At two or three in the morning it is rarely the rational, logical brain, but more often the fearful brain that takes normally mundane issues and turns them into insurmountable obstacles.  When that happens, these problems rarely resolve by tossing and turning and agonizing over worst case scenarios.  I simply lose sleep with no sensible solution to any of my perceived hurdles and what is worse, my tossing and turning affects my husband and things snowball creating not only a miserable night but a lousy day for two people due to lack of sleep.

For me, a better solution is to quietly get out of bed, sometimes make a pot of coffee and try to engage my coherent brain and tackle the issues.  For me this process starts with identifying and naming the real problems.  Next comes some brainstorming about potential solutions, both purely reasonable and totally off-the-wall. What usually follows is research.  I need to understand the problem before moving forward with a decision.  Sometimes this process is short. Often middle-of-the-night-issues become non-issues when my rational brain kicks in.

Fear

Attending last Thursday’s City Council meeting was a little like waking up in the middle of the night with a million thoughts and fears running rampant.  Currently we seem to be a town paralyzed by fear.  This is not a new occurrence.  This is part of Glenwood’s history. We want to do it right . . . or perfectly . . . or not at all.  Usually we end up with “not at all.”

Some concerns voiced at last Thursday’s meeting  are absolutely prudent,  some are irrational or over stated in my opinion and some have been addressed and resolved but just keep sneaking back in.   Do not misunderstand.  I am not advocating rushing headlong into decisions without proper consideration, understanding, thought and due diligence.  But it is time to name and identify the fears and deal with them.

Some of the fears, concerns and questions broached at the City Council meeting – or since –  include:

  • Traffic will be doubled and tripled if a new bridge is built without a bypass
  • Traffic speed will be increased throughout Grand Avenue turning it into another I-70 corridor
  • The proposed bridge will be an L.A. style off-ramp
  • The bridge does not fit with the history and surroundings of Glenwood
  • The town cannot survive without a bridge for two months
  • The NEPA process has been circumvented by CDOT
  • Many local businesses will close and be replaced by marijuana shops and tattoo parlors
  • Tourism will decline
  • Oil and gas trucks will speed down Grand Avenue
  • City Council is disregarding work by prior councils
  • There is no comprehensive plan for transportation
  • Grand Avenue is doomed to be a mass transit corridor
  • Has CDOT segmented this project by separating the bridge project from the ACP and from a potential bypass?
  • Is this something that can or should be decided by a vote of citizens?
  • Exactly what powers does CDOT have and what triggers them
  • Delays in the ACP could cause additional cost to the city to update traffic studies and restart the public process
  • Could the “police powers” that CDOT states they have make the IGA null and void
  • Who has control over the traffic light sequences throughout Grand Avenue?
  • No one will use an “Underground tunnel” for pedestrians in the middle of Grand between 7th and 8th
  • CDOT is going to do whatever it wants no matter what Glenwood does

Identify the problem

So what is at the heart of this alarm?  It is time to name them.

  • Pedestrian/bicycle safety
  • Economic impact on merchants and businesses
  • Environmental impact
  • Financial ramifications to the entire city
  • Safety concerns about the bridge
  • Preservation of the history of Glenwood Springs
  • Glenwood’s image and branding
  • Volume of traffic
  • Loss of local control

The subjects named above, and there may be more, are all absolutely legitimate issues and Glenwood’s citizens are right to be concerned and to ask questions and look for reasonable answers.   However, in looking for these answers some fact cannot be pushed aside.

Facts

  • The State of Colorado, through Colorado Department of Transportation controls SH 82 from I-70 through Glenwood Springs, over Independence Pass to the juncture with Highway 24 between Leadville and Buena Vista
  • Access to SH 82 (including all of Grand Avenue) is currently governed by the Colorado Access Code http://www.coloradodot.info/business/permits/accesspermits/references/601_1_accesscode_march2002_.pdf/view
  • The Grand Avenue Bridge project scope and need is limited to the south side of Colorado River (downtown Glenwood Springs) and the connection to I-70 on the north.
  • Under the NEPA process, if the agency is uncertain whether significant impacts are expected, an EA (Environmental Assessment) is prepared to determine if there are significant environmental effects.  The findings of the EA may lead to an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) .  http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/nepa/Citizens_Guide_Dec07.pdf
  • City Council has requested that intersections at 8th, 9th, 10th & 11th remain full movement and signalized under the draft ACP
  • Neither the bridge or the ACP process is over
  • The City of Glenwood Springs has a Comprehensive Plan that includes transportation.  http://www.cogs.us/departments/community/Forms/GlenwoodSpringsCompPlan2011.pdf

Frustration

I am frustrated on many different levels, which is why writing this week has been so difficult and I will cover in more depth in a later post.  But perhaps what frustrates me most right now is that there is a pervasive perception that there is no community support for either a new bridge or the ACP. It is true that those opposed have been vocal, but in my conversations with people around town, there are many who feel that a new bridge would or could have a positive impact – depending on design.  Many also feel that a Access Control Plan would give the city some say in access along Grand Avenue which is better than none.  Why are they not writing letters to the editor or showing up to meetings?   I wish I knew.  Perhaps there is not the fervor that those against have.   Perhaps they feel that their voice is represented by many on City Council.  Perhaps they are intimidated by the process. Perhaps it is simply easier to be against something than for it.  There have been some positive suggestions made by several citizens, including Sumner Schachter, Steve Smith and others.  Those will also be explored in a later post . . . as this one has run on too long . . .

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered tragic losses this week.  Remembering those in Boston, MA; West, TX and now at MIT.

 

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.

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/