Pitkin County delays Coal Creek Road repairs

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County will put off repairs to Coal Creek Road in the Crystal River Valley until next year, after bids for the emergency project came in well above what officials anticipated.

The county initially expected to spend about $250,000 to replace a buckled culvert and repair a compromised retaining wall after a sinkhole developed in the road earlier this fall. An engineering estimate later upped the anticipated cost to about $300,000, but the lowest bid submitted last week was $430,000, according to G.R. Fielding, county engineer.

Three contractors submitted bids. Fielding told county commissioners on Tuesday that he believes the price tag came in higher than expected because of the challenges posed by winter’s approach. He and other staffers recommended holding off until next year, and seeking bids in the spring to do the work during next summer’s construction season.

The unknown, he said, is whether spring runoff next year will make matters worse.

“Is there a danger of it becoming a million-dollar replacement job if it washed out in the spring?” asked Commissioner Rachel Richards.

“That’s a difficult question,” Fielding said.

“If we do see further deterioration either with the wall or the culvert, we may need to shut that road down,” said County Manager Jon Peacock.

“The risk is definitely there,” Fielding said. “The culvert has failed; it’s buckled.”

The problem area is about 1.5 miles up the road from Highway 133. Coal Creek Road leads into Coal Basin, west of Redstone. There are no residences served by the road beyond the sinkhole, but the basin is a popular recreation area in winter and summer.

County road crews have made some temporary repairs at the site, and it is barricaded so motorists don’t drive over the sinkhole.

Commissioners agreed to put off the repairs.

“We’ll just have to take it as it comes,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.