What about that bridge? | AspenTimes.com

What about that bridge?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The state of Aspen’s Maroon Creek bridge is likely to get plenty of discussion on Tuesday, when local officials meet with the new man in charge of Region 3 for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

CDOT will hold its annual meeting with Pitkin County commissioners tomorrow. The state delegation will include Ed Fink, named last week as the new director of Region 3 operations. Joe Elsen, program engineer for the east area of Region 3, which encompasses Pitkin County, will also be on hand. Doug Aden, the transportation commissioner representing this area, may be there as well.

So will members of the Aspen City Council.

The 116-year-old highway bridge over Maroon Creek, which required emergency repairs in October after CDOT discovered damage to its abutments, will be foremost in the minds of local officials. The span had to be closed to all but cars and small pickup trucks until repairs were made.

“Everybody acknowledges, yes, it’s a problem, let’s get it replaced. It’s a question of when,” said Randy Ready, assistant city manager. “I’m sure that will be topic one at the discussion.”

Upper valley elected officials are expected to debate in January whether they want to put up any of the approximately $2 million necessary to get final construction plans for a new bridge completed, so the project is ready to go.

CDOT doesn’t have funds to take that step, or to build the new span, which would cost roughly $25 million.

“Right now, the funding scenario really hasn’t changed,” Elsen confirmed.

“We’ll be talking transportation and lack of money,” predicted Commissioner Mick Ireland. “We’ll say what we need, they’ll agree. We’ll say we need money, they’ll say they don’t have any. It’ll be very cordial.”

Next year will be the fourth consecutive year in which CDOT submits replacement of the aging bridge for federal discretionary funding, Elsen said. That source, however, isn’t likely to provide the full amount necessary for the bridge project, even if the feds decide to allocate some money toward it.

The bridge is back to having a sufficiency rating of 24 out of a possible 100 points now that it has been repaired, according to Elsen. The rating dropped into the single digits when the problems were discovered.

The bridge isn’t the only topic on the agenda, Elsen added. The agency will offer a short presentation on its accomplishments, maintenance plans and future projects, he said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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