Pitkin County is being asked to help pay for a bridge in Glenwood Springs. The well worn and narrow Grand Avenue Bridge is ten years past its life expectancy… is getting unsafe to drive across and may not survive major erosion from the Colorado River. But, the cost of the project is going up, and now the Colorado Department of Transportation is asking nearby local governments to cover it. CDOT representatives made a formal plea to Pitkin County Commissioners at a meeting in Aspen on Tuesday.
Commissioner George Newman pressed for exactly what’s turned out to be more expensive than planned. Dave Eller is Regional Transportation Director for CDOT, and explained the situation this way.
“There’s a lot of things that have made up why the budget is over. Right of way costs. We thought we owned the right of way, or Glenwood owned the right of way for the existing structure. And we don’t. That was about a twelve million dollar overage on the right of way side of our budget.”
Also, a new pedestrian bridge wasn’t in the plans, but turns out it’s pretty essential for logistics with the new regular bridge. So CDOT is about 10 to 15 million dollars short, and they’re asking Pitkin County for a half a million.
Most commissioners seemed already hip to the arguments for how important the bridge is to the Valley. Commissioner Rachel Richards urged helping out CDOT before the existing bridge has any major structural problems.
“You could have lane restrictions, you could have it taken down to one lane in each direction. I mean there’s a parade of uglies as they say, by not acting quickly enough. So I’d like to see what we can do to take care of that.”
Commissioner Steve Child said he’s heard from several Glenwood Springs residents about whether CDOT should instead focus on a larger attempt to reduce Highway 82 traffic in Glenwood Springs. Project Manager Joe Elsen explained that larger issue would cost hundreds of millions of dollars...and take a lot of buyin from the community. That was reflected in this quote in a recent Post Independent newspaper article.
“One of the business owner’s said that discussions gonna make this bridge discussion look like a pillow fight.”
All five commissioners approved looking at a way to help pay for the project on the table now… with limits. Again, Rachel Richards.
“I don’t want to hit our general fund, and we’re, we’re tight. We manage our budget really tightly. Both personnel and everything else. I’d like to think that if we’re able to come up with something we could do it over several years. And make a commitment to find a way to work in some amount of money going forward.”
Whether or not Pitkin County can pony up a half a million dollars, is yet to be determined. CDOT made a similar pitch to Glenwood Springs and Garfield County last night (Tuesday, September 9th), with Garfield County expected to vote on the matter on September 15th. Eagle County is also on the “ask” list, with nothing confirmed yet.