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Aspen Bridge Loads Limited After Supports Found Cracked

Fri October 31, 2003 - West Edition

ASPEN, CO (AP) The Maroon Creek Bridge, which is along the primary Highway 82 access route to Aspen, was set to have a lowered load limit for at least a week and possibly longer, after state inspectors found cracks in a sandstone abutment holding it up.

The Colorado Department of Transportation briefly closed the bridge to everything larger than a pickup truck after cracks were found over the weekend of Oct. 18-19.

On Oct. 22, crews were expected to complete demolition work on the damaged sandstone abutment. A reinforced-concrete placement was scheduled for the same day, with the concrete expected to cure for approximately 36 hours.

“We’re working as fast as we can to make these repairs,” said Joe Elsen, CDOT’s program engineer who oversees engineering in four counties. “This is the main route into Aspen, and we don’t want to lose it.”

The new limits were installed when inspectors found two giant sandstone blocks that support the downvalley end of the bridge crumbling. The inspectors immediately replaced the most compromised of the blocks with hydraulic jacks designed to lift a semi-truck.

The 115-year-old Maroon Creek bridge has long been considered one of the shakiest in the state highway system and is inspected once a year.

Traffic was detoured through Cemetery Lane neighborhood in the interim, officials said.

Jeff Anderson, of the CDOT bridge department, said the blocks apparently were crushed by the expansion of the bridge itself.

Anderson said newer bridges have been designed to allow for considerable expansion and contraction of steel and other materials with changes in temperature. But he questioned whether the ancient Maroon Creek Bridge had those design safeguards in place.

Anderson also lowered the bridge’s sufficiency rating, which takes structural integrity into account, to just nine out of 100. For several years the bridge’s integrity rating has been at 24, low enough to prompt the annual inspection schedule.

Ames Construction, the lead contractor on the Snowmass Canyon/Highway 82 widening project, has been hired to make the necessary repairs, officials said.