Aragon: Digging deeper into the Castle Creek Bridge |

Aragon: Digging deeper into the Castle Creek Bridge

Trish Aragon
Guest Commentary
City of Aspen

The recent Aspen Times poll on the Castle Creek Bridge was a moment of social-media brilliance. This one-question survey asked readers: “The Entrance to Aspen is back on the radar. What’s the answer?”

Each of the wittily-written, multiple-choice answers surely made people chuckle, and all ring true … at least, to a certain degree. I’d like to share more detailed information about Aspen’s complex, long-standing infrastructure challenge we’ve been facing for 30-plus years.

Answer 1: The kink called the S-Curve needs to be straightened. Simple as that. 

Votes received: 30%

The S-Curves do present challenges. This includes the number of accidents they generate, plus reduced capacity, particularly for outbound traffic.

Less than 1,000 cars per hour can navigate through the S-Curves due to their shape and size. During the afternoon peak rush hour, traffic starts to back up on Main Street. These backups push vehicle traffic into the West End.

Additionally, due to their geometry, the S-Curves can’t accommodate light rail or other new technology available in the future 

Answer 2: The problem lies with the “entrance.” There needs to be several.

Votes Received: 29%

Agreed, although the project is transit-oriented (getting buses into/out of town faster) and focused on improving emergency access and evacuation — all through more available lanes. 

The S-Curves and Power Plant Road are insufficient routes for wildfire evacuation or emergency access. Implementing a second bridge would:

  • Triple vehicle lanes available for evacuation
  • Provide three options to get out of town — the current bridge, the new bridge, and Power Plant Road

See No. 3 for details regarding vehicle travel times.

Answer 3: Simply a symptom of ineffective public transportation. Why make it easier for cars?

Votes Received: 17%

The current plan, known as the Preferred Alternative, is a transit-oriented solution and will not make it significantly faster for cars to get into town.

With the addition of continuous bus lanes from the airport to downtown, getting into town on a bus will be faster, according to preliminary studies.

Reports also indicate slightly-reduced travel times for vehicle traffic. This information will be verified by thorough studies in the next phase of the project. 

Answer 4: The bridge has two decades left.

Votes Received: 13%

The bridge was built in 1961 and was designed to last 75 years. However, it wasn’t designed to be the busiest two-lane highway in Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) rating system is assessed as good, fair, and poor. The bridge was just rated at 50.3. Anything below 50 is poor.

As bridges age, they deteriorate more quickly, requiring more frequent repairs. We expect the bridge to have approximately 12 more years in its useful life.

With that said, the bridge is safe — and CDOT will ensure it stays safe.

Answer 5: CDOT will solve it if we don’t.

Votes Received: 12%

If the city of Aspen voters do not support the project, CDOT will take the lead with the goal of keeping the traveling public safe in a fiscally responsible way.

For more information. visit

Trish Aragon, P.E., is the city engineer for the city of Aspen.