Glenwood has ‘bridge to nowhere’ controversy

GLENWOOD SPRINGS —To hear some people talk, a new Roaring Fork River bridge south of Glenwood Springs would be akin to Alaska’s legendary “bridge to nowhere.”

“I think it’s another government, Sen. (Ted) Stevens boondoggle,” said Glenwood Springs resident Bob Warner, referring to the Alaskan politician’s proposal that ultimately was dropped after criticism over the federal budget earmark for it.

But to hear city engineer Mike McDill talk, Glenwood’s bridge is justifiable and can’t be built soon enough.

“I just have the hope that we can get something done here before we need it, instead of after,” McDill said Wednesday at an open house. The public weighed in on locations for the bridge and routes over it, which have been narrowed down to two alternatives.

The south bridge is itself a proposal benefiting from a federal earmark. Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis originally pursued the idea 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 secondary route is Midland Avenue, a two-lane road at the edge of a mountain and vulnerable to closure by events such as rockfall or an accident.

McInnis’ successor, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, managed to obtain a $5.2 million earmark for the project in 2005.

More recently, numerous possible locations for the bridge over the Roaring Fork River and a connecting road have been screened. A group consisting of entities such as the city, county, and state and federal agencies considered proposals by a residents’ group, but ultimately recommended a route that would either cross the city’s airport, requiring the airport’s closure, or tunnel underneath the runway. The first project would cost an estimated $17 million, and the other $20 million.

Former Glenwood Springs City Council member Rick Davis doesn’t like the bridge proposal or its proposed routes. Either would connect state Highway 82 to Midland via Airport Road. Davis says that will dump even more cars onto Midland, which he said already bears too much traffic.

Scott Jones, a consultant on the project, said the plan is to make Airport Road a narrow, low-speed road that would discourage use by non-local traffic.

Warner said the new bridge isn’t needed, and questions the idea of building it when the Colorado Department of Transportation lacks money to do anything about the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood. Part of Highway 82, the bridge is considered structurally and functionally deficient.


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