Maroon Creek Bridge good to go? |

Maroon Creek Bridge good to go?

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Motorists stuck in rush-hour traffic on the old Maroon Creek Bridge might not be too happy to learn that the nearby new bridge that looks good enough to drive on actually is.

It’s just that the Colorado Department of Transportation has decided the Highway 82 bridge cannot be opened to traffic until the work is finished on the bus lanes being built between the Buttermilk Ski Area and the Maroon Creek-Castle Creek roundabout.

And that project is not expected to be done for several weeks ” at the least ” where phase one is concerned.

“If that project was not going on, you’d be driving on [the new bridge] right now,” said CDOT program engineer Joe Elsen.

The bus lanes project was approved by local voters in 2007, and will mean that one lane of the 1.2-mile stretch of road from Buttermilk to the roundabout will be for buses only. As an example, CDOT crews have painted lines to realign the lanes as they come from the eastern end of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and past Buttermilk, with one lane for buses only, one lane for high-occupancy vehicles and a third lane for general traffic.

Elsen said the new bridge over Maroon Creek essentially is done, except for some aspects of the bus lanes and paving to connect the highway to the bridge.

Although reluctant to give an exact date of opening for the bridge, Elsen said on Friday that it might be open to traffic by late July, depending on progress on the bus lanes.

Paving is now under way on the downvalley lanes. Once that is done, work will begin on phase two ” the upvalley bus lanes ” and traffic will be switched over to the new downvalley lanes and onto the bridge.

Bicyclists and pedestrians have been using the new bridge’s bike/pedestrian lane since last month.

As for the structural work on the new bridge, Elsen said, “I think they’re essentially done with it.”

What is not known yet, Elsen continued, is the fate of the old Maroon Creek Bridge, which originally was the old Midland Railroad bridge and has stood for more than a century.

Elsen said the old bridge currently holds a “sufficiency” rating of 24 out of 100, and that CDOT expects to do rehabilitative work on the bridge eventually to bring it up to a sufficiency rating of 50, which will mean it no longer qualifies for bridge-replacement status in the state’s list of things to do. He pointed out that back in 2003, cracks in the bridge supports dropped its sufficiency rating to “I think about nine,” although repairs brought the number back up again.

But even after the state does work on the historic span, he said, there are no plans to keep the old bridge in use, at least not from the state’s point of view.

“We don’t have any money in the budget for that,” he said, explaining that it probably would cost “less than $100,000” to improve the safety aspects of the bridge to the point where it could be used by walkers and cyclists.

The only way that will happen any time soon, he said, is if local officials take it on as a local project.

“We have had discussions with the locals,” he added, “about trying to work it out so it’s pedestrian friendly.”

Elsen noted that it was local participation in the bridge project, in the form of $1.2 million in design money from upvalley governments, that made it possible for the Maroon Creek Bridge project to be done now. The state had no money in its statewide priority list for Maroon Creek design work prior to the local contribution, he said.