As the city of Aspen looks to improve pedestrian/bicycle safety along the Castle Creek bridge, initial data from the firm studying the route supports the building of a complimentary pedestrian bridge, rather than altering the existing structure.
Adding a pedestrian bridge is one of three preliminary options offered by Louisville, Colo.-based Loris and Associates, the firm hired to conduct the $54,130 study. The Aspen City Council will get its first look at these preliminary findings at a work session Tuesday, when members of the Parks Department as well as city engineers are expected to weigh in.
The first option offered by Loris is to add a short cantilevered section to the pier cap to accommodate the multi-use path. This would not require additional columns, according to the memo.
The second is to extend the abutment and pier caps and add columns to the outside of the existing bridge, while the third option is to build a separate, independent bridge for a multi-use path.
The firm favors building a new structure based on the life cycle of the aging Castle Creek Bridge (Loris estimates it has less than 20 years left), as well as the public impact of restructuring the bridge.
“It is likely that modifying the existing structure would have a cost comparable to (if not greater than) constructing a new bridge,” the memo states, adding that there is no exact cost estimate at this time.
The future of the state-owned bridge largely will be in the hands of the Colorado Department of Transportation, whose officials met with Loris about the study.
On Friday, project manager Tyler Christoff talked about the bridge’s life cycle and the state maintenance schedule that supports it. CDOT is constantly doing work on the bridge to extend its useful life, he said. This spring, the bridge was closed for a short time period while crews worked on the abutment, as it had normal, weather-related wear and tear. The state also monitors bearing plates, asphalt condition, drainage and fencing, among other things.
“They’re trying to make this structure last as long as possible,” Christoff said.
Christoff stressed that the recommendation from Loris is very preliminary and does not reflect input from city engineers and trails officials, who called attention to the bridge’s safety issues in January at a council meeting. He said a critical step will be gathering public input.
“You can be a great engineering design firm, and you can’t see every angle because you’re not out on site 24/7 like a neighbor is,” he said. “At a quick, 30,000-foot view, (the new bridge) was their initial impression of what would work well in the corridor.”
After the council offers input, the city will reach out to stakeholders, Christoff said, adding that staff could return to council for first and second readings possibly this summer or fall. The Loris study will not only look at the bridge but the entire corridor, from Cemetery Lane, across the bridge onto West Hallam Street, across Seventh and Eighth streets and into the West End.
“This is kind of a neglected part of our transportation network, especially for peds and bicyclists,” Christoff said. “I think it’s a timely project to look at this part of town because it is the entrance, not just for vehicles, but for peds and bikes, to Aspen. So hopefully we can find a workable solution for the community.”