Federal funding sought for Maroon Creek bridge | AspenTimes.com

Federal funding sought for Maroon Creek bridge

Brent Gardner-Smith

The $24 million Maroon Creek bridge, proposed to be built as part of the Highway 82 widening project, may soon be a candidate for federal funding.

Ralph Trapani, local program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, made a presentation recently to a state board that selects bridge projects to be pitched to the federal government for funding.

At the federal level, the funding would come from a $100 million discretionary fund known as Federal Bridge Discretionary Program.

Trapani urged the Colorado Transportation Commission to select the proposed four-lane Maroon Creek bridge as the one bridge project that it recommends to Congress for funding.

The $24 million bridge is part of the current $62 million entrance to Aspen plan. The plan also includes a cut-and-cover tunnel on the Marolt property and a new bridge across Castle Creek that connects with Aspen’s Main Street.

The $24 million figure also includes $1.5 million to stabilize the existing Maroon Creek overpass, which was built as a railroad bridge more than 100 years ago. The state plans to keep the old bridge in place for possible use as a light rail bridge should that system ever materialize.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Trapani said after his presentation to the commission. “The federal government has a multitude of discretionary funding programs. That’s how we got the $100 million to build the tunnels in the Glenwood Canyon. It falls outside of our normal funding formula.”

The commission is an 11-member board appointed by the governor. Doug Aden, the current chair of the commission, is from Grand Junction and is familiar with the Highway 82 project.

The project also has the support of Owen Leonard, the regional transportation director for Region 3, which includes Pitkin County.

“The reason Owen Leonard asked me to make a presentation to the commission is that he is doing everything he can to fund the entrance to Aspen,” said Trapani, who noted that even if the effort doesn’t result in federal funding for the bridge, it keeps the entrance in front of the transportation commission.

The commission will decide whether to promote the bridge as a candidate for federal funding at its next meeting on Feb. 15.

If the commission does promote it as a worthy project, Trapani said some efforts by local elected officials might help.

“If the commission approves us to go to Washington, it does become a lobbying exercise,” he said.

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