Road riders will get relief from rough stretches on Rio Grande Trail |

Road riders will get relief from rough stretches on Rio Grande Trail

The pedestrian bridge over Sopris Creek at Emma needs extensive work, including protection from water scouring beneath the timber footings. RFTA and Pitkin County plan to share the nearly $325,000 cost.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Cyclists on skinny-tired bikes can count on smoother sailing this summer when they are traveling on the popular Rio Grande Trail.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority are planning to replace the decking on three pedestrian bridges in the midvalley.

The two agencies oversee maintenance of the trail. The open space program is responsible for everything upvalley of Emma while RFTA oversees everything downvalley.

Decks will be replaced on the Wingo Junction Bridge over the Roaring Fork River and the Roaring Fork Bridge at Satank. A more comprehensive project is necessary for a bridge over Sopris Creek, just downvalley from the Emma School.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails recommended spending $159,295 to replace the deck of the Wingo Junction bridge. The Pitkin County commissioners must approve the funding.

The two boards heard about the need for the project in a joint meeting earlier this week.

“Although the existing transverse timber decking is functional and durable, it provides a rough surface, which for some trail users on road bikes and/or pedestrians wearing open toe shoes, is deemed undesirable,” said a memo from open space staff member Ted O’Brien.

Basalt resident and road biker Steve Chase welcomed news of the bridgework. He lobbied Open Space and Trails last year to replace the wooden decking. Chase rides with a group of friends who felt the bridge posed a hazard.

“In our group’s 14-years-plus experience riding up and down valley across the bridge, avoiding the warped and, in some instances, splintered planks became an increasingly challenging obstacle course,” he said in an email.

While he was unaware of any accident such as a tire blow out, it was inevitable without new planks, he said.

“Of all the bike trails in the valley, this one simply was not maintained at the level that we would have expected,” Chase said. He credited the open space program for acting.

The open space program plans to use new timber decking.

“With a new deck, the riding surface would be expected to be significantly better than the existing,” O’Brien’s memo to the open space board of directors said. “The users would still feel a joint approximately every 8 inches, but the roughness felt by the user should be significantly less than the existing.”

The pedestrian bridge over Sopris Creek at Emma is one of three on the Rio Grande Trail in the midvalley that will get new decking in 2019. (Scott Condon/The Aspen Times)
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The job was awarded to Mueller Construction, which was already hired by RFTA for a similar decking replacement job on the pedestrian bridge by Satank. Combining jobs will save money on material costs. The exact timing for the work is yet to be determined.

The Sopris Creek Bridge in Emma will require more extensive work.

“Overall, this bridge is in poor condition with several cracked transverse floor beams, extensive wood deterioration, scour beneath the timber footing and a retaining wall that protects the southeast corner of the bridge has failed,” O’Brien’s memo said. “Simply put, this bridge has reached the end of its lifecycle by several years.”

Mueller Construction earned the job with a bid of $324,833. RFTA and Pitkin County will split the cost of the work. The project will include redirecting flows away from piers and abutments.


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