A GRAND PLAN FOR GRAND AVENUE
Bridge project largest on Western Slope in 25 years
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.”
Work has begun on the new Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs.
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