Community Input is Shaping Grand Avenue Bridge Project
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been asking for input on the Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment (EA) study since November of 2011 and that feedback is playing a large role in what a new bridge will look like and where it will be located.
“At the beginning of the study, we knew there were bridge problems that needed to be fixed and that the answer was either rehabilitating the bridge or replacing it in place,” said CDOT Program Engineer Joe Elsen. “Now, with the excellent ideas and comments we’ve received, there’s an alignment option and several other additional improvements suggested by stakeholders that are being taken under consideration.”
Some of these ideas include the following:
7th Street Under the Bridge
One of the early ideas from the Visioning Workshop and initial public meeting was to create a better pedestrian environment under the bridge at 7th Street. This has pushed the bridge concepts to create more clearance under the bridge; a larger, better lit area; and the ability to provide a continuous walkway through the alley between 7th Street and 8th Street. Another important result of this idea was to remove the existing bridge pier from the Colorado River. All new bridge options now eliminate a bridge pier in the river.
Construction Impacts to Businesses
There has been a strong and consistent message to minimize and reduce impacts to businesses during construction. This message has been incorporated into one of the criteria for developing and evaluating the various alternatives. This opened up the idea that a new bridge on a new alignment could reduce construction impacts by allowing the bridge to be constructed off-line. Alternative 3 is a direct result of this consideration. In addition, new accelerated bridge construction techniques that could reduce overall construction impacts for Alternative 1 have been identified and are now being considered.
How the bridge looks and fits into the character of Glenwood Springs was of great concern to many stakeholders. Because of the many historic structures in the downtown area, the community really wants to build something that is in context with the community. The project team has made a commitment to develop design options that achieve this and other aesthetic goals. Project stakeholders also have expressed interest in improving the entrance to Glenwood Springs. An improved entrance could be achieved with the new bridge, but the team is also taking this into consideration with Alternative 3 at Exit 116, where most visitors arrive.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections
The importance of improved pedestrian and bicyclist connections has been voiced at every public meeting. Improvements to the connections to both Two Rivers Park and downtown are being incorporated into the conceptual bridge alternatives. The intersection options for Alternative 3 have been revised to better accommodate pedestrian movements.
A related, but separate issue has been the issue of building a bypass or alternate routes to reduce traffic and congestion along the existing SH 82 route. While a bypass would address the problem of congestion, it would not address problems with the bridge, itself. Therefore, the project team is evaluating how the Grand Avenue Bridge project could be compatible with a future bypass. Also, Alternative 3 does address some of the SH 82 congestion along 6th Street between Laurel and Pine.
The current alternatives under consideration have been shaped by the feedback that the project team has received thus far. As the process continues, the public will provide input about the details of the bridge project, including when certain construction activities occur, how pedestrian connections work and what the bridge looks like.
Independent Peer Review
CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration sponsored an Independent Peer Review (IPR) June 26 to June 28 to confirm that the project team has considered all reasonable alternatives and to ask for recommendations on different aspects of the alternatives to improve and refine them. This was a structured process, facilitated by a Certified Value Specialist, which is typically not done—and certainly not required—until a project gets to the design stage. The seven professionals on the IPR team were chosen for their expertise in roadway, structural, traffic, bridge aesthetics, construction methods and local issues. None of them had been involved in developing the alternatives that have been presented to the public. The process involved reviewing project background information, brainstorming ideas and then formally discussing and developing recommendations to the project team.
One of the goals of the IPR team was to look at all of the alternatives that had been considered to date to see if other alternatives exist that would meet the Purpose & Need and are worthy of further study (based on Project Criteria). The IPR team also was asked to provide constructability suggestions related to traffic, noise, business impacts, reduced lanes/closure and construction time; ways to reduce or minimize costs; other or better ways to make the project less impactful to public, businesses and travelers; and how this project can have better value in relation to Goals, Purpose and Need, process, lower cost and reduced impacts to public, businesses and travelers.
Based on their review of the project information, the IPR team came up with recommendations about the alternatives. After looking at the current alternatives the IPR did confirm that Alternative 1 and Alternative 3, with the various intersection options, are viable alternatives and should be developed further. In addition, the IPR team came up with two alternative concepts:
- A four-lane alignment on Colorado Avenue to address construction impacts and phasing issues. The alternative would use the Colorado alignment on the south side for two-way traffic to 9th Street, adding S-curves at 9th Street to Grand Avenue. There were two options on the north side – connecting at 6th and Laurel, or connecting at 6th and Maple. The main advantage of this alternative is that the new bridge could be built entirely without touching the existing Grand Avenue Bridge.
- A different type of intersection at 6th and Laurel for Alternative 3 that would reduce the number of turning conflicts but increase the number of signals.
After the IPR, the Project Working Group (PWG) did a comparative analysis of these two concepts. Their opinion was that, although there were some benefits to each of them, they did not offer benefits above those alternatives already considered and had off-setting disadvantages. The Colorado Avenue alignment will not be carried forwarded because of its impacts to traffic circulation, land acquisition, noise, and adjacent land uses. The intersection concept was not comparatively better than current Alternative 3 intersection options. So, after confirming with the Project Leadership Team, the PWG determined these concepts will not be considered further.
As part of their work, the IPR team did come up with recommendations and ideas to consider as the alternatives are further developed. The IPR team identified general considerations for structure types, constructability, bridge aesthetics, traffic, utilities, future development opportunities, and pedestrian/bicycle access for Alternatives 1 and 3. A few of these ideas were:
- Consider connecting River Trail to existing pedestrian facility on north side via a ramp or other means.
- Make the bridge in Alternative 3 a continuous curve to facilitate construction and improve aesthetics.
- Conduct additional analysis to determine how long each of the construction phasing options might realistically take.
- Reconsider an elevator for American with Disabilities Act access on the south side.
- Consider ways to minimize impacts to utilities that must be relocated from the existing bridge.
- Keep pedestrian crossings to outside of roundabout/intersections and reduce number of pedestrian lane crossings.
- Consider additional ways to incorporate a new pedestrian bridge underneath the bridge.
- Take the visual impact of the existing pedestrian bridge on a new structure into account when considering bridge alignment options.
We really appreciated this team of experts taking an independent look at our project to ensure we weren’t overlooking the best ways to develop the alternatives, Elsen said. “The IPR team confirmed we are moving in the right direction; and they gave us several ideas to incorporate as we get to the more detailed phase of our analysis. All in all, CDOT and FHWA are pleased that we took some extra time to confirm the process and where we go from here.”
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Environmental Assessment Background: CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are conducting the EA. All open house exhibits and other background information, documentation and a Frequently Asked Questions page are posted at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge. Those wanting to receive project updates can sign up via CDOT’s free message system by going to 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.”
Replacement or repair of the Grand Avenue Bridge will be 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). 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.
For more information about the SH 82 Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment, the public may access: www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge.