A bridge worth waiting for | AspenTimes.com

A bridge worth waiting for

“What the hell is going on with that bridge?”

“When are they going to finish that thing?”

“How long has it been? Three years?”

No doubt you’ve heard the chatter about the new Maroon Creek Bridge, which had been under construction since June 27, 2005. We certainly have at the newspaper. If it wasn’t a commuting staffer wondering why the emerging span seemed to look exactly the same for months on end, then it was a reader on the other end of the phone, sensing a scandal and urging us to write yet another story about why the damned bridge project was taking so long.

Well, now it is done.

Yesterday the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) opened the new span to auto traffic for the first time. A “grand opening” will wait until October, when both new bus lanes will be finished for the Entrance to Aspen.

The reason the new Highway 82 bridge over Maroon Creek has taken so long is, well, Maroon Creek itself. CDOT did everything it could to minimize damage to the gorge, the wetlands and the creekbed. This meant using “single concrete box girder” construction and, for the most part, keeping heavy machinery out of the canyon.

The design also eliminated the need for CDOT to use the old bridge for nighttime construction staging. This obviously lessened the delays that might have been associated with a major bridge project and lessened the screaming that would no doubt have issued from Aspen.

To those who have watched this project move forward, at an admittedly slow pace, it may come as a surprise that it came in on budget, at nearly $14 million.

So the state and the contractors, BTE Concrete Formwork and Atkinson Construction, deserve congratulations.

For our part, we’re just happy it’s finished. It’s been a long time coming, and the existing bridge, an 1888 relic designed for the railroad that served Aspen’s silver mines, was ready for retirement as a highway span. Fortunately, the old bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and will remain in place for future generations to observe.

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