Bridge pro­ject largest on Western Slope in 25 years

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Monte Wha­ley

A $125 mil­lion bridge pro­ject in Glen­wood Springs is be­ing termed his­toric, mad­den­ing, cer­tainly in­con­ve­nient and es­sen­tial to the health of this town of 9,800.

A$125 mil­lion bridge pro­ject in Glen­wood Springs is be­ing termed his­toric, mad­den­ing, cer­tainly in­con­ve­nient and es­sen­tial to the health of this town of 9,800. ¶ “It would be very dif­fi­cult to iden­tify a sin­gle piece of in­fra­struc­ture that would have a greater im­pact on us than this one,” said An­drew Gorgey, Glen­wood Springs’ act­ing city man­ager.

Over the next 30 months, crews will build a new Grand Av­enue ve­hi­cle and pedes­trian bridge that will link down­town Glen­wood Springs, the fa­mous Hot Springs Pool, the Ho­tel Colorado and In­ter­state 70.

Grand Av­enue is the town’s main street and is part of Colorado 82, the main artery to other com­mu­ni­ties in the Roar­ing Fork Val­ley, in­clud­ing Aspen. Nearly 30,000 ve­hi­cles a day travel on Colorado 82, and the ex­ist­ing bridge was be­gin­ning to sag un­der all the work and tourist traf­fic, said Tom New­land, pro­ject spokesman for the Colorado Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

“It’s only am­at­ter of time be­fore the bridge will break down on us,” New­land said.“We are re­plac­ing it now, so it won’t hap­pen any­time soon in the fu­ture.”

The new bridge will be wider and bet­ter able to han­dle traf­fic in a bur­geon­ing cor­ri­dor that shut­tles con­struc­tion crews and X Games traf­fic, of­fi­cials say.

The ameni­ties that come with the new bridge also will be im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing a pedes­trian bridge far­ther sep­a­rated from traf­fic and friend­lier for walk­ers and tourists.

The ex­ist­ing Grand Av­enue bridge — built with two lanes in 1953 — is con­sid­ered “func­tion­ally ob­so­lete” by the Na­tional Bridge In­ven­tory.

The bridge’s lane width is 9 feet, 4 inches, while the stan­dard is 12 feet. Emer­gency and po­lice ve­hi­cles are find­ing it hard to nav­i­gate through the bridge’s nar­row lanes, while big­ger

cars and trucks are chip­ping way at the creak­ing struc­ture.

“Back in 1953, the buses and trucks were a lot smaller, so it’s get­ting stressed more and more,” New­land said.

The cur­rent bridge is one of about 150 bridges in the state that earned a “poor” rat­ing and were given pri­or­ity un­der Colorado’s Bridge En­ter­prise Fund.

But ef­forts to re­place the bridge and to reroute Colorado 82 had failed in the past, mainly be­cause of dis­agree­ments over fund­ing and re­align­ment.

This time, how­ever, com­mu­nity lead­ers and high­way of­fi­cials de­cided to col­lab­o­rate to im­prove not only the bridge but to keep Glen­wood Springs vi­tal and hug­ging its his­toric roots, New­land said.

“We got a clear mes­sage that if we were go­ing to re­place this bridge, we had to in­volve the com­mu­nity up front and not come in and tell them what we were go­ing to do,” New­land said. “And ev­ery­one wanted some­thing com­pat­i­ble with the his­toric na­ture of the town’s build­ings. So we sat back and took our time.”

The plan­ning took nearly four years and in­cluded draw­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port from com­mu­ni­ties that ben­e­fit from the new bridge. Glen­wood Springs pitched in $3 mil­lion and Garfield County $1 mil­lion.

The re­sult is a five-phase pro­ject con­sid­ered the largest in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject on the Western Slope since the com­ple­tion of I-70 through Glen­wood Canyon 25 years ago.

“If we wanted to treat this as just an­other pro­ject, then we would have your typ­i­cal bu­reau­cratic squab­bles. And we didn’t want that. This is too big for that,” Gorgey said.

This month crews be­gan in­stalling a tem­po­rary walk­way on the cur­rent traf­fic bridge. And on Mon­day, the west park­ing lot for the Glen­wood Hot Springs will close to the gen­eral pub­lic so it can serve as the pro­ject’s stag­ing area.

To com­pen­sate, park­ing will be avail­able in var­i­ous lots ad­ja­cent to the re­sort, and a new door-to-door shut­tle ser­vice will be pro­vided from Lot A, for­merly Bighorn Toy­ota, said Kjell Mitchell, CEO and pres­i­dent of Glen­wood Hot Springs.

“I think we have more than made up for the chal­lenges of this pro­ject,” Mitchell said. “And this will be good for Glen­wood Springs.”

The Hot Springs — which be­gan in 1888— shouldn’t see a de­cline in busi­ness even when the en­tire ex­ist­ing bridge is shut down for de­mo­li­tion in Au­gust 2017, Mitchell said.

“I think we will get through this pretty well. It will be chal­leng­ing, but peo­ple know what to ex­pect. And they are will­ing to see it through,” Mitchell said.

In the mean­time, there will be clo­sures and de­lays in and around Glen­wood Springs for the con­struc­tion.

Critic John Haines says it doesn’t have to be thisway. A rerout­ing of traf­fic off of Grand Av­enue would be just as ef­fi­cient and not as calami­tous as an en­tire bridge de­mo­li­tion.

“It’s al­ready start­ing to be a mess, and it’s go­ing to get worse,” said Haines, who headed a group that tried to block the pro­ject. “All over the coun­try, peo­ple have re­ha­bil­i­tated bridges by do­ing ba­sic main­te­nance work, and it added to the aes­thet­ics of the town.”

“But if Glen wood wants this,” Haines said, “they de­serve this mess.”

The en­tire pro­ject is slated for com­ple­tion by May 2018. Gorgey is con­fi­dent res­i­dents will power through un­til the end.

“Ev­ery­body in­volved knows this will be a ma­jor pro­ject with ma­jor im­pacts,” he said. “But in the end, it will re­flect the hard work of a lot of ded­i­cated peo­ple. It’s go­ing to be great.”

Pho­tos by He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Work has be­gun on the new Grand Av­enue Bridge in Glen­wood Springs.

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

The Grand Av­enue Bridge pro­ject— which will re­place the old bridge that was built in 1953, as well as the pedes­trian bridge that was built in

1984— is ex­pected to take 2K years.

Peo­ple walk over the pedes­trian bridge next to the Grand Av­enue Bridge on Jan. 19 in Glen­wood Springs. Work has be­gun on re­plac­ing the old bridge as well as the pedes­trian bridge. He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

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