Maroon Creek Bridge finally ready for traffic |

Maroon Creek Bridge finally ready for traffic

ASPEN ” After three years and $14 million of construction, the new Maroon Creek Bridge is finally ready to open.

Traffic will be diverted from the 120-year-old existing bridge to the new structure Tuesday, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The transition won’t affect the morning commute, said Pete Mertes, CDOT resident engineer in the Highway 82 corridor.

The new bridge is a key part of the Entrance to Aspen. By the end of the year it will host two general traffic lanes (one in each direction) and two bus lanes (one in each direction). The old bridge was wide enough for only two lanes.

The old Maroon Creek Bridge, completed by the Midland Railroad Co. in 1888, will remain as a historic structure. The old railroad bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was used for Highway 82 beginning in 1929.

While some commuters felt the construction of the new bridge lasted an eternity, the time was the price paid to lessen the impacts to the environment and traffic.

“The environmental impacts were minimized from the amount of disturbance to Maroon Creek basin,” Mertes said.

CDOT used a design called cast-in-place that involves a concrete box girder. Those excited about construction methods can learn more by visiting and click on the “bridge design” box.

For laymen, the construction design meant heavy machinery were for the most part kept out of the streambed and riparian areas. Mertes said wetlands weren’t permanently damaged.

The design also excluded the need to use the old bridge at night for construction staging. That would have likely been required if steel girders had been used.

Instead, pier columns were placed in precise spots on the valley floor. They support two massive piers. Cantilevered segments of concrete were poured to form the foundation of the traffic lanes. Construction crews poured 42 of those segments.

The bridge used about 7,500 cubic yards of concrete, an amount delivered by about 833 ready-mix trucks. To avoid traffic disruptions, the trucks used an existing access road in the Maroon Creek valley floor. A pumper truck sent the concrete up to the bridge deck.

Mertes said the project was on budget at $13.96 million. The contract didn’t offer a bonus to contractor BTE/Atkinson JV to get the job done ahead of schedule.

The bridge was essentially finished on June 4, the deadline day. Only lighting and landscaping still must be completed. CDOT felt it was best to delay the opening until it could be coordinated with the completion this month of the first bus lane being added along the Entrance to Aspen. That first phase of the bus lane project is wrapping up Tuesday.

Construction of an additional bus lane is supposed to be completed in October. At that time, CDOT will hold a grand opening for the new Maroon Creek Bridge.

Once the bridge and bus lane projects are completed, bus riders can expect to reduce their riding time in and out of Aspen, Mertes said. But general traffic commuters probably won’t see much improvement in travel time. There is still only one lane in and one lane out for them, he noted. Travel time for buses will be reduced because they will have a dedicated lane.

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