Castle Creek Bridge ages without a replacement plan |

Castle Creek Bridge ages without a replacement plan

CDOT employees work on the Castle Creek bridge on Thursday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The work done Thursday on the Castle Creek Bridge marks the second time in seven months that crews have had to repair the aging structure.

And though Colorado Department of Transportation workers will likely have to return this summer to perform more maintenance, the agency has no plans to design and replace the bridge because of issues associated with the long-debated Entrance to Aspen, said Tracy Trulove, a CDOT spokesperson.

Emergency work on the bridge Thursday included repairing an expansion joint on the east end that an Aspen police officer noticed last week was damaged, according to Trulove and Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn. CDOT crews repaired an expansion joint on the west side of the bridge in August. In addition, the state paid a contractor nearly $700,000 in 2011 to repair the bridge’s surface and substructure, according to an Aspen Times article.

Trulove said the joint is located where the bridge meets the highway and allows the structure to expand and contract depending on the weather. Crews were pouring epoxy Thursday to put the joint back in place, she said.

CDOT workers will likely have to return this summer and continue work on the joints at night, Trulove said.

However, the bridge will not be replaced or extensively rehabilitated until area elected officials make a decision on the Entrance to Aspen, she said.

“There’s not a lot of new money for improvements and infrastructure,” Trulove said.

The Entrance to Aspen debate is about how to alleviate bottleneck traffic jams along the S-curves on Aspen’s westside as Highway 82 winds its way into town. The issue has been the subject of 27 votes in the city and county during the past 40 years.

One current proposal — known as the “preferred alternative” — would bypass the Castle Creek Bridge and the S-curves, route traffic across Marolt Open Space, and then hook up with the west end of Main Street. The bridge would still be necessary to access Cemetery Lane, but would receive significantly less traffic than current numbers under that scenario.

However, there’s no timeframe for making a decision on the Entrance to Aspen.

G.R. Fielding, Pitkin County’s engineer, said the damaged expansion joints on the Castle Creek Bridge are an indication the bridge is aging.

“The expansion joint is something that wears over time,” he said. “It’s one of the first things we would expect to have a failure on or need repair.”

The bridge was built in 1961 and has a rating of 63, Trulove said. By comparison, the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs — before the recent project to replace it — had a rating of 46, she said. That suggests the bridge would not be considered for replacement, but would likely be rehabilitated, she said.

“It still has some life in it,” Trulove said.

Fielding said replacing the bridge requires a substantial investment from CDOT that the agency may not want to make if it will be bypassed by the new route proposed in the Entrance to Aspen.

“The Castle Creek Bridge brings a lot of baggage,” he said.

Phone messages left for Aspen city officials in charge of capital assets and transportation were not returned Thursday.

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