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Bridge in line for funding

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The chances of replacing the aging Maroon Creek bridge improved last week when a regional planning committee rated the construction of a new bridge as its highest priority.

The 115-year-old bridge has long been considered one of the shakiest in the state highway system. It is inspected annually instead of once every other year, as are most other bridges.

Inspectors discovered last October that the abutment holding up the downvalley end of the span was crumbling, prompting them to close the bridge to heavy trucks while repairs were completed.

Every five years, the Colorado Department of Transportation prioritizes construction projects statewide. In Aspen’s region, which includes Summit, Lake, Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties, the bridge was given top billing.

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On April 12, representatives from Pitkin County will argue for funding for the bridge before a larger regional transportation division that includes all of northwestern Colorado.

“From there it goes to the Transportation Commission, and they will [either] adopt it or not,” said Brian Pettet, county public works director. The Transportation Commission oversees CDOT’s budget and operations.

As the region’s top priority, the bridge stands a good chance of securing funds, Pettet said. He also said that the $1.5 million recently pledged by representatives from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County to begin engineering plans for a new bridge sends a strong signal to CDOT officials.

“The bridge is the primary artery to Aspen,” Pettet said. “Commerce and tourism would be drastically impaired if the bridge fails. Add to that our commitment of $1.5 million, and I like our chances.”

Securing money from CDOT has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to the state budget crisis. Replacing the Maroon Creek bridge would require an estimated $23.5 million, approximately half of CDOT’s funds for the entire region.

Pettet said the rating also increases the chances for other sources of funding, such as federal grants.

“We’ve been given a clear message from local officials. We know CDOT is in a squeeze, and even if everything goes well it might be tough to secure funds,” he said.

“We’re doing everything we can, including investigating programs through the federal government, to find a way to replace the bridge.”

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]


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