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Commissioners take second look at light-rail pedestrian bridge

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Span would connect new light-rail station with Golden neighborhood

By Vicky Gits

Jeffco authorities appear to be looking for a way to give their reluctant permission for a $2.3 million pedestrian bridge from Golden Ridge across West Sixth Avenue to the RTD light-rail station next to the Jeffco Administration and Courts Building.

The bridge would be paid for mostly by the federal government, which has allotted $1.2 million in Transportation Enhancement funds for the steel span. The Regional Transportation District and Golden have budgeted $750,000 and $300,000, respectively. The city would own and maintain the bridge.

The commissioners took a second look at the bridge at the staff briefing session following their regular weekly business meeting on July 17.

Golden officials were there to answer questions that came up at a meeting on June 26 when the subject was first introduced.

The Jeffco commissioners have appeared somewhat reticent. A pedestrian walkway built over Wadsworth Boulevard at Bowles Avenue a couple of years ago has been ill received and dubbed “the bridge to nowhere.”

Nevertheless, Golden is eager to build its pedestrian bridge, which it says will provide improved pedestrian and bike access between the county building and the Golden Terrace mobile home park and business center on Golden Ridge. Estimates are that the bridge would see about 200 to 300 trips per day.

The goal is to have the bridge in place by the time light-rail service begins in spring 2013.

"I have received negative comments. People are saying we need to fix our failing infrastructure instead of spending $2.3 million," said Commissioner Don Rosier. He also expressed concern that the bridge might interfere with future road improvements envisioned in the Muller Plan, also known as the Golden Plan.

"When we look at rezoning, we hear a lot about protecting the mountain backdrop. A lot of vertical development is strongly opposed," Rosier said.

Steve Glueck, Golden planning and development director, explained that the land on Golden Ridge was never intended to be untouched. "This is not a rural part of the county. This is appropriate for commercial and mixed-use development," Glueck said. In fact, the zoning, which has been in place for decades, calls for multi-story buildings.

Glueck denied there was ever a plan to remove all the mobile homes in favor of a six-story development.

"There was a conspiracy theory that RTD was going to condemn the property," Glueck said. "There has never been any such plan."

Neither did Golden have an ulterior motive, he said. "Our goal has been to manage growth, not to encourage it."

Commissioner Rosier was concerned about the aesthetics of the bridge. "It's really going to stick out. It's a large structure on top of a hill. RTD went to a lot of trouble to screen the effects of the parking garage, but this is right there at the top of a hill," Rosier said.

The structure would be built of unpainted weathering COR-TEN steel.

"I'm not crazy about the bridge, but we probably have to have it," said Commissioner Faye Griffin, who said she voted to approve the Wadsworth bridge during her previous term as commissioner. "Visibility is important. It should stay looking nice. … I voted for the Wadsworth bridge, but I don't want an ugly bridge."

Rosier insisted more work needs to be done on selling a small piece of county-owned land on the south side of West Sixth Avenue near the bridge before a decision can be made.

Jeffco transportation and engineering director Kevin French pointed out that money for the bridge might not be available forever.

"RTD is putting in $750,000, and the funds likely wouldn't be there in 10 years,” French said. “RTD has other priorities. There's a time element we should consider.”

Golden Mayor Marjorie Sloan said the bridge should be built in time for people to become accustomed to walking to public transit instead of clogging the parking garages.

"There's a big difference between spending money and investing money," Rosier said. "We have to think regionally. If we do a knee-jerk reaction, that could become a $10 million problem."

Glueck promised to come back to the commissioners with proof that the local community supports a bridge and that CDOT confirms it fits in with its future plans.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.

Golden Ridge area within 2,500 feet of county building

Number of existing dwellings: 1,100

Amount of commercial: 235,000 square feet

Vacant land for development: 15 acres

Zoning: Commercial uses on vacant parcels

Height limit: 60 feet with 100-foot setback, effectively 40 feet (2- or 3-story)

Bridge dimensions

Stair tower: 13 to 14 feet tall

Distance above road at top of bridge: 28 feet

Bridge: 10 feet tall