Officials to meet, discuss routes for Highway 82

GLENWOOD SPRINGS —  Glenwood Springs and Garfield County elected officials will meet next month to try to settle on what route or routes to formally study for possible construction of a new bridge and road connecting to Colorado Highway 82 south of town.

Efforts to winnow down the alternatives for the South Bridge Project have proven to be a challenge so far. Staff members for the city, county, and state and federal agencies considered other proposals by a citizen group, but ultimately recommended pursuing a route that would either cross the city’s airport, requiring its closure, or tunnel beneath it.

A project following that alignment could cost $17 million to $20 million to build. But during a discussion with project consultants Monday, County Commissioner Tresi Houpt voiced interest in one of the citizen group’s proposals, which would involve a route near the old Cardiff bridge.

Houpt suggested it would be worth conducting an environmental review of that alignment as well.

“I don’t want to cut corners. I don’t want to be given an ultimatum of just having one alternative that I say yea or nay to,” she said.

However, considering additional alternatives in a formal environmental review process would add to that review’s cost. In an interview, Glenwood Springs City Council member Dave Merritt said he fears that local governments could end up spending an entire federal earmark for the project just on studies.

Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis first pursued funding for the south bridge when the 2002 Coal Seam wildfire demonstrated the need for residents of south Glenwood Springs and the Four-Mile Road corridor to have a second escape route in an emergency.

The only existing route heads into Glenwood Springs. A new route would cross the Roaring Fork River on its way to Highway 82.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar obtained a $5.2 million earmark in 2005.

County Commissioner John Martin said there are all kinds of alternative routes he’d like to see considered. But he also worried about time constraints, noting that the earmark is scheduled to expire in September and there’s a question about whether it will be renewed if not spent by then.

Tom Newland, a project consultant, said the hope is that the money will remain in place because planning work already has been occurring.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the project Thursday, and the council and county commissioners will hold a joint meeting on it Feb. 19.


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