Maroon Creek Bridge on track | AspenTimes.com

Maroon Creek Bridge on track

Charles Agar

Project engineer Joe Elsen talks about progress on the Maroon Creek Bridge on Thursday. The bridge is scheduled to be completed and operational by spring 2008. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Construction of the new Maroon Creek Bridge should be finished by spring 2008, but it is still unclear whether two or four lanes of traffic will cross the span.Workers have built the first 15-foot sections of the bridge, and a large metal superstructure – called a “form traveler” – stands ready to carry nearly 40 more sections out into open space to span the Maroon Creek gorge.Ray Schmahl, a part-owner of BTE concrete, said Thursday the project is on schedule. And Tom Metheny of the Colorado Department of Transportation said crews will work through the winter but added, “We need some breaks with the weather.”

The new bridge will be 73 feet wide when it’s complete. There will be a 12-foot-wide bicycle/pedestrian path, which leaves 56 feet of pavement for motorized traffic and a median. The current plan for its use, however, has two general-purpose lanes with a wide, raised median in between.The 1998 Record of Decision for the ever-controversial Entrance to Aspen laid out a plan for a two-lane highway, and light rail or designated bus lanes, as the preferred alternative to move traffic in and out of Aspen’s clogged western entrance. The bridge will be wide enough for the bus lanes, but there are hurdles to putting them in place.State and federal officials consider the Environmental Impact Study, part of the Entrance planning, in need of re-evaluation. That work is under way.

Joe Elsen, program engineer with CDOT, termed it a “technical re-evaluation” – not a public process. Those involved in the review will make a report at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, a group of upper-valley elected officials, on whether the Environmental Impact Statement is still valid.After the technical re-evaluation, there will be a public process to determine how many lanes of traffic will cross the bridge, he said.The big hitch to the broader Entrance plan, Elsen added, is funding. Statewide, CDOT will need nearly $100 billion just to maintain existing roads in the next 20 years, he said. And there is no funding in place to build the rest of the Entrance to Aspen, which calls for realigning Highway 82 over open space at the edge of town.

In order for anything to happen with the Entrance project, Elsen said, it will need a jump start with local financing, which occurred for both the new bridge and the Maroon Creek roundabout.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com

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