Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment Public Hearing scheduled for next week
The public hearing will be held in an open house format, with a presentation by the project team scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
After the 30-day comment period for the EA ends on December 1, 2014, the study team will compile and evaluate all comments received. A decision document will then be prepared that will complete the EA process. At the same time, the study team continues to work with the affected agencies and the public to identify and explore design considerations for the bridge, aesthetics, and multimodal connections. It is anticipated that the final design will be completed in early 2015 and project construction will begin in late 2015.
Project Purpose and Need
The purpose of the project is to provide a safe, secure, and effective multimodal connection from downtown Glenwood Springs across the Colorado River and I-70 to the historic Glenwood Hot Springs area. The importance of the bridge to the local and regional transportation network underscores the following two project needs:
- Improve multimodal connectivity between downtown Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley with the historic Glenwood Hot Springs pool area and I-70.
- Address the functional and structural deficiencies of the bridge.
Planning for this project began in 2011 to look at the best way to maintain a safe and effective multimodal connection between downtown Glenwood Springs, I-70 and the historic Glenwood Hot Springs area north of I-70. The planning process was designed to meet the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and be consistent with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) I-70 Mountain Corridor Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process. Three project groups helped guide and provide input into this study: the Project Working Group (PWG), Project Leadership Team (PLT) and the Stakeholder Working Group (SWG). The PWG was a technical team of agency representatives from CDOT, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), City of Glenwood Springs (City), and the consultant team. The PLT was comprised of various stakeholders and formed by CDOT to make sure the study team followed a CSS process to complete the study. The SWG, a larger stakeholder group with broad community representation, provided feedback to the study team throughout the process.
The planning process considered a variety of alternatives and evaluated them against the Project Purpose and Need, the Context Statement, and the Critical Success Factors developed with the stakeholders and community through the three project groups and public input. At each step in developing and evaluating alternatives, the study team worked with the project groups and the public to evaluate, eliminate, and refine alternatives. Stakeholders provided input to the study team that helped shape the alternatives and the results of the evaluations.
The planning process resulted in a more direct alignment from the I-70 interchange across the river and railroad into downtown Glenwood Springs. It also determined that replacing the existing pedestrian bridge with an improved multimodal bridge would enhance the north-south connection for pedestrians and bicyclists while enhancing the entrance to Glenwood Springs from the east. Numerous alternatives, options, and enhancements were identified throughout the planning process and evaluated against the project Purpose and Need and Critical Success Factors. This process was conducted with extensive involvement of the community, stakeholders, and the three project groups to ensure consistency and transparency in the planning process.
The SH 82/Grand Avenue Bridge Environmental Assessment (EA) process involved an extensive public and agency involvement program. In addition to the three project groups formed to help guide the project (Project Leadership Team, Project Working Group, and Stakeholders Working Group), an Issue Task Force was formed to address specific design and aesthetic considerations. Since November 2011, members of the study team have had one-on-one contact with approximately 3,000 stakeholders through an array of outreach activities, including public open houses, stakeholder workshops, open forums, meetings with more than 30 business owners, meetings with public officials and community groups, and displays at events such as Strawberry Days. The study team has worked closely with the City of Glenwood Springs and other local governments and organizations to create a project that reflects a broad range of local, regional, and state interests.
Where We Are
The EA has been finalized and is available for review on the project website http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh82grandavenuebridge. The EA outlines the Proposed Action for this project. In addition, the study team has been working on the final design for the Proposed Action in cooperation with a construction consultant to refine options to minimize construction impacts and develop a cost-effective design that meets the project objectives. The study team continues to work with stakeholders to finalize design details and the aesthetic elements developed with community involvement throughout the planning process.
Bridge and Potential Future Bypass
One of the issues that came up early in the planning process and continues to be of interest to a number of stakeholders is the potential for a future SH 82 bypass. Much has been written and discussed regarding a future bypass or relocation of SH 82 in Glenwood Springs. The planning process and discussions with interested stakeholders confirmed that the bridge and the bypass can be pursued independent of one another, and that the proposed Grand Avenue Bridge does not preclude potential future bypass options.
The Grand Avenue Bridge provides a crucial connection for commuters, tourists and Roaring Fork Valley communities and will continue to do so—even if a bypass were to be constructed. It was built in 1953, it is functionally obsolete, and has structural issues that need to be addressed—it has exceeded its design life and is rated in poor condition. There is dedicated funding to replace it now.
A SH 82 bypass or relocation has been a point of local discussion since the 1970s and increasing traffic and development have resurrected the discussion anew. Some have suggested a bypass/relocation could potentially follow the rail corridor; some have other ideas for an alignment. Any of these ideas would ultimately need screening to determine whether or not they are feasible, based on environmental, historical, technical, socio-economic, or other factors.
Bypass/relocation planning should continue—but it will not take the place of doing what is still necessary to fix the Grand Avenue Bridge. In fact, the Glenwood Springs Comprehensive Plan clearly states the need for both: “Continue planning for a relocated route for SH 82,” and “Work with CDOT on the replacement of Grand Avenue Bridge.”
Overall project costs and available funding are a challenge for the project. Available Colorado Bridge Enterprise funding is less than the current estimated cost to construct the project. The study team has been working to refine the cost estimates based on a 60% level of design, looking for ways to value engineer and save costs, and pursuing other funding options. Potential funding partners include local agencies such as Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties; the Cities of Glenwood Springs Aspen; local, state, and federal grants; as well as other transportation funding sources through CDOT and FHWA. Recent funding commitments have come from the City of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County, and the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region (IMTPR). Funding requests have also been made to Eagle County, Pitkin County, and the City of Aspen. CDOT is committed to deliver a project that reflects the design developed with the stakeholders. This includes maintaining all of the key aesthetic elements in the project that make the bridges context sensitive (pedestrian bridge roofs, stone and brick, historic appearance of the pedestrian bridge elevator/clock tower, etc.).