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FASTER Funding Supports Colo. Bridge Replacements

Wed February 23, 2011 - West Edition
Rebecca Ragain


A Caterpillar 325B excavator lifts timbers during the demolition of a bridge outside of Arlington, Colo.
A Caterpillar 325B excavator lifts timbers during the demolition of a bridge outside of Arlington, Colo.

About 50 mi. east of Pueblo, Colo., work is underway to replace four bridges along a lightly-traveled section of Highway 96.

The bridges are located along a 27-mi. stretch of Highway 96 between the towns of Ordway and Eads. The original structures were made of timber; the oldest of the four dates back to 1932, according to Colorado Department of Transportation engineer Paul Westhoff.

Given the age of the bridges, it’s no surprise that they were included in CDOT’s list of 128 bridge improvement projects that were deemed high priority due to the structures’ poor sufficiency ratings. In 2009, Colorado passed legislation to fund these projects: Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, otherwise known as FASTER, which is fully financed by vehicle registration fees.

FASTER is funding the $2.9-million project to replace the four bridges along Highway 96, which CDOT decided would be best accomplished with a modified design-build arrangement.

“It’s a type of project we’ve started to do a little more of,” Westhoff said.

The reasons that modified design-build seemed like a good fit for this particular project are two-fold, said Westhoff.

One reason is that this project is, as Westhoff puts it, fairly straightforward. The other benefit is quicker delivery. “We could speed up that side of it... get ’em [the construction crews] in and out,” he said.

Englewood-based contractor Structures Inc. began work last fall. By early February, crews had demolished two of the original bridges — at Black Draw, near Sugar City, (mile 114) and at another draw west of Arlington (mile 121) — and detours were in place in preparation for building the new structures at those sites.

The replacement structures feature pre-cast concrete box culverts.

“Since they’re all pre-cast, they’ll be able to place those and we won’t have to worry about [the complications of] cold-weather concrete,” said Westhoff.

When the first two bridges are complete, work will begin on the structures that span draws at miles 123 and 141. Crews also are widening parts of the two-lane roadway adjacent to the bridges.The Highway 96 bridge replacement project is scheduled for completion early this summer.

“We don’t know where it will go from there,” said Westhoff, referring to the FASTER funding program. “There were 128 [poorly-rated bridges] when they wrote it. When we fix that 128, there will be more that need to be replaced.”

CEG