CDOT hopes to gain funds to fix ‘evil’ bridge |

CDOT hopes to gain funds to fix ‘evil’ bridge

Scott Condon

A bridge considered “evil” by a consultant for Basalt because it magnifies the flooding potential of the Roaring Fork River may be fixed by the Colorado Department of Transportation, with a little luck.If Colorado voters approve two tax measures on the ballot in November, then CDOT will make improvements designed to ease the flooding potential, according to the agency’s wish list of projects.The Upper Bypass Bridge has been a sore spot between Basalt and the transportation department for more than a decade. The bridge was built in the late 1980s when the state rerouted Highway 82 around the town.Basalt officials claim that improper design contributes to the river’s instability through town. The bridge is built at an odd angle to the river. The “bed loading,” or deposit of rock by the river, at the bridge is extreme, according to a water engineering firm that studied the river’s hydrology through Basalt. Consultant Rick McLaughlin also reported to Basalt officials last year that bridge supports also tend to collect tree trunks and other debris during high water times. That increases flooding potential by interfering with the flow.”We all think of the Upper Bypass Bridge as evil – and it is,” said McLaughlin in September 2004.The town’s ultimate dream is to have the bridge replaced with one that spans the river without supports in the water. That’s more like a fantasy because of the cost.But town officials said other steps, like adding wedges to the bridge supports to deflect tree trunks and debris should be undertaken.CDOT has never acknowledged that the design contributes to flooding potential. As a result, Basalt has socked away funds in 2005 for potential litigation.Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland, who is chairman of CDOT’s Regional Planning Commission for a five-county area, said the litigation threat caught the state’s attention.Ireland told the Basalt Town Council in a joint meeting of their boards this week that the Upper Bypass Bridge work is among $7.4 million in bridge projects identified by CDOT for funding if special ballot measures are approved.Referendum C will go before voters seeking approval for the state to keep additional revenues from existing taxes over the next five years. Colorado’s TABOR law currently requires additional tax revenue beyond inflation and new growth to be refunded.Referendum D will seek permission to issue more than $1 billion in bonds to finance road, bridge and strategic projects. The bonds would be contingent on approval of the additional funding sought in Referendum C.Ireland said CDOT has prepared a list of projects that would receive funding if the referendums are approved. That list is expected to be approved today by the state Transportation Commission.The list doesn’t specify how much would be spent on the Upper Bypass Bridge. Ireland said he learned from CDOT officials that the cost cannot be pinpointed because the agency hasn’t examined the scope of the project yet.Basalt officials were pleasantly surprised to hear from Ireland that relief may come for the bridge. McLaughlin’s study identified between $15 million and $20 million in alterations necessary to ease the flood potential of the Roaring Fork River through Basalt. Work on the bridge is key because of its up-river location.Scott Condon’s e-mail is