Workers ready for action on new Maroon Creek bridge |

Workers ready for action on new Maroon Creek bridge

Naomi Havlen
Contractors and officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Pitkin County take a tour of the Maroon Creek bridge on Wednesday. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

A 200-foot crane will be delivered next week to disassemble the Maroon Creek pedestrian/bike bridge this month.It will take 10 truckloads just to deliver the crane, which will tower 100 feet over the current bridge. But once the crane removes the pedestrian bridge, construction will begin on the foundation for the new vehicle span.Officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Pitkin County, and the contractors building the structure took a tour Wednesday afternoon of the project they say is “on time and on budget.”

The $17 million plan to replace the Maroon Creek bridge began this summer and is expected to be completed at the end of 2007. The new span will stand where the current pedestrian bridge crosses Maroon Creek and will be 73 feet wide – enough to initially carry two lanes of traffic with 8-foot shoulders, a 12-foot bike/pedestrian lane and a 12-foot median.The bridge will be wide enough to accommodate four lanes of traffic, including dedicated bus lanes in each direction, but that plan would first need voter approval. The existing bridge will be retained and is slated to carry light rail if that transit system materializes.This summer’s construction work has included redirecting the pedestrian/bike path to a 4-foot-wide section of the old span where cars, buses and trucks still stream in and out of Aspen. Crews are taking the surface off the pedestrian bridge by jackhammering and scraping off concrete, and a major project is under way to relocate utility cables that run into Aspen across the structure.The cables are being placed upstream of the bridge, temporarily in the air between wooden telephone poles until the new span, which includes interior space for the cables, is completed.

“We’ve been out here three months, and I’d like to get to building a bridge some day,” joked CDOT project manager Tom Metheny of all the relocation work that has gone on at the site so far.Removal of the pedestrian bridge should happen relatively quickly; it includes taking it apart in eight sections with the crane. The pieces will be lowered to the valley floor until one night this month when they can be lifted onto flatbed trucks to be taken elsewhere.Half of the pedestrian bridge is already slated for another bridge project in Basalt. Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper said the other half of the bridge should remain in the Roaring Fork Valley – perhaps for a project in Carbondale.This winter, contractors will excavate land for two piers that will be drilled into the bedrock to support the new structure.

When it’s completed, the new bridge will be just four feet from the current one, Metheny said.The Midland Railroad built the original Maroon Creek bridge, which thousands of commuters pass over each day, in 1888 as a train trestle. The steel structure was built within six weeks, said Joe Elsen of CDOT, and the Colorado Department of Highways purchased it in 1927 and converted it for automobile use soon after.Although it has been repaved and repaired numerous times, its safety rating has dropped each year and is currently at nine out of 100 possible safety points, Elsen said. The new structure should be in place for the next 75 years, said Tom Stelmack of Parsons Corp., designer of the new structure.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail is

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