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Colorado’s Bridges Benefitting from FASTER Funding through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise

August 12, 2013 - TRANSPORTATION MATTERS - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - In August 2007, the safety of bridges on our nation’s highway system came into the spotlight following the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As a result of this accident, Colorado took a closer look at its bridges and how to accelerate replacement of poor bridges across the entire state. Six years later, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is experiencing positive results with 95 percent of Colorado bridges rated in “good” or fair condition.

CDOT’s rapid progress on repairing and replacing the state’s deficient bridges is due to the FASTER (Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery) legislation that was passed in March 2009. The legislation created the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE) and identified a dedicated funding source for repairing and replacing poor-rated bridges across the entire state highway system.

“Since the CBE’s focus is to address the poor bridges on our state system, motorists can see improvements in every part of the state, not just the urban areas,” said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt. “By replacing or repairing these bridges, we are improving our highway infrastructure and creating a safer trip for motorists.”

As of July 31, 2013, the CBE has replaced 53 or repaired bridges while another 22 are under construction and 33 are in the design phase. Some of the major bridge projects in CDOT’s Region 5 (southwest/south-central Colorado) that are underway or recently completed include:

SH 62 Uncompahgre River Bridge in Ridgway (Ouray County): The project, contracted for $4.5 million and completed in July, involved the replacement of the bridge over the Uncompahgre River, at the east entrance to Ridgway. The new structure has been built to current standards with two 12-foot lanes and 6-foot shoulders, and also includes a 14-foot multi-purpose lane and a 6-foot sidewalk; the old bridge was 32 feet wide and the new is approximately 59.5 feet wide. In addition, the project includes construction of an under-bridge 60-foot long pedestrian path that can eventually connect to the town’s trail system. The bridge is 65 years old and was rated in poor condition. This new structure increases safety and mobility and will have a service life 50-plus years. The new bridge also offers enhanced multi-modal features, including the path below that will eventually tie in to the town’s existing trail system.

SH 145 Leopard Creek Bridge (San Miguel County): More than just a bridge replacement of the 1954 structure, this project, contracted for $3.77 million, has constructed a wider bridge, added a left-turn lane for Norwood-bound traffic and a right-turn lane for traffic traveling from Norwood to Telluride. The red rock cliff on the corner closest to Placerville has been cut back to create more space at this junction of SH 145 and SH 62. The work wrapped up in July. Benefits:  The nearly 60-year old two-span bridge had concrete piers sunk into the middle of the streambed. The new bridge is a single-span structure, with no center pier to impact the creek. This new structure increases safety and mobility and will have a service life of 50-plus years. The newly widened and improved intersection also increases safety with better sight distance for motorists and dedicated turn lanes.

US 24 Bridge at Johnson Village (Chaffee County): Construction of a new bridge over the Union Pacific railroad lines will get underway in late 2013 or early 2014 for an estimated $1.4 million. The bridge is located between Johnson Village and the US 24/US 285 junction. Crews will construct each half of the new structure on either side of the existing bridge, so that the existing bridge can remain in operation during the majority of the work. To “slide” the new halves in place, crews will demolish one half of the existing bridge at a time, route single-lane, alternating traffic onto the new half, then do the same on the other side. The new bridge will have wider shoulders and improved guardrails, among other upgraded features. Benefits:  The bridge was built in 1937 and is rated in poor condition; its replacement will increase safety and offer a new service life of 50-plus years.

The sole purpose of the CBE is to finance, repair, reconstruct and replace bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and rated “poor.” In order to accomplish this, a bridge safety surcharge ranging from $13 to $32 has been imposed on vehicle registration based upon vehicle weight. Revenues from the bridge safety surcharge were phased in over a three-year period and are estimated to generate approximately $100 million in annual funding.

In addition, the CBE sold $300 million in Build America Bonds in December 2010 to partially or fully fund the completion of work on 81 bridges currently included in the program (there are currently some 130 bridges on the CBE list). The CBE accelerates work on these poor-rated bridges by making funding available now, thus greatly reducing potential hazards to the traveling public in an expeditious manner.

“While we have made tremendous progress on replacing and repairing poor bridges, we know our work isn’t over yet,” said CDOT Bridge Engineer Joshua Laipply. “With much of our highway system built in the 1950s and 1960s, more bridges will fall into the “poor” category in the coming months and years. However, with the CBE and a dedicated funding source, our state has the means to address this critical need.”

For more information on the CBE as well as a complete list and status of the CBE bridges, please visit http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/BridgeEnterprise.

GET WIRELESS NOTIFICATIONS:  If you would like to receive e-mail and/or wireless notifications about traffic and travel, as well as CDOT projects in the area, please go to CDOT’s website at www.coloradodot.info and select the green phone icon in the upper right corner.

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