Council: Cimarron bridge work in 2007

       Westsiders will have even more reason to stay on this side of town in the months ahead.
       Based on a consensus of the Colorado Springs City Council Aug. 21, the Cimarron bridge just east of I-25 should be replaced as soon as possible because of its safety uncertainties. Most or all of the work will take place in 2007 - the same time frame as the COSMIX project's Bijou Street/I-25 interchange replacement.
       Many details remain to be ironed out, but council preferred Senior Civil Engineer Robin Kidder's “fast track” approach, which suggests work starting as early as October with the hiring of a design-build construction team and continuing until December '07. Pre-construction time would be saved by curtailing the public-input and design process. The bridge could be modeled after the new Bijou bridge, which went through an extensive public-input process, he said.
       An open questiion is whether to keep half of the bridge open at all times - so that two lanes of traffic (instead of the usual four) could get through while the work goes on - or to to close the bridge completely. The work might be done faster and cheaper in the latter case, but traffic would have to be detoured east of I-25 through America the Beautiful Park to Colorado Avenue, “and there's some downside to that as well,” Kidder said. In any case, he noted, “It doesn't matter if you build half the bridge or not, you still have to keep 30,000 vehicles a day moving.”
       Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, whose District 3 includes part of the Westside, said he favored “doing it all at once,” but tempered that with a request for additional traffic figures.
       The Bijou bridge replacement, by Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) COSMIX contractor Rockrimmon Con-structors, is scheduled from January to October '07. Those dates, established by CDOT to avert construction impacts on downtown Christmas trade, cannot be changed so late in the process, Kidder said.
       The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) board, which meets Sept. 13, still needs to move the Cimarron project up on its priority list from the current time frame of about 2010. But with three council members on the board, as well as County Commis-sioner Sallie Clark, who has long pushed for the bridge's replacement, approval is anticipated.
       Clark said after the meeting she understands the concern about traffic back-ups, but “at this time we don't have much choice. The safety of our citizens and the long- term benefits in this case come first… We're getting to it as fast as we can.”
       Another issue is cost. The RTA's budgeted cost for the bridge is $4.8 million, but the fast-track estimate put the cost at $7-8 million. Kidder said that funding could be initially obtained by borrowing from two other major upcoming RTA road projects (Woodmen Road and the Proby Expressway) that don't need all their funds quite yet.
       The bridge spans Conejos Street and the railroad tracks. It was initially built by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 1958 and given to the city in 1992, Kidder reported.
       The city spent about $800,000 on emergency structural repairs between 2002 and 2004. That work was supposed to ensure the bridge's stability for another 10 years. But a new problem occurred Aug. 9, when a four-foot-wide hole appeared on the south side of the bridge deck - so massive a hole that people could see through to the street below. Kidder said this was a result of moisture seeping through the deck over time and wrecking its concrete under-surface.
       Traffic is currently diverted to the north side, but it has a weak point of its own that has forced a vehicle weight limit requiring police supervision at the bridge since Aug. 9, Kidder told council. He added that the bridge will be completely closed for one day (Saturday, Aug. 26) so a steel plate can be installed to strengthen that side.
       Both the other two replacement options that council turned down involved waiting until the Bijou bridge reopens before closing Cimarron and replacing it.

Westside Pioneer article