After years of public outreach, multiple construction starts and stops, detours and a few stubborn potholes, the Castle Creek Bridge construction project is scheduled to be completed next week.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, downvalley traffic on the Castle Creek Bridge will be redirected to Power Plant Road out of town, with exceptions for buses and large trucks. Construction is expected to pause at the end of each work day to allow for two-way traffic across the bridge during commuting hours.
Crews will be laying down new asphalt on both lanes of the bridge, which also was paved last year following a number of phased improvements that started in April, were suspended during the busy summer season, and ended in October.
But, by the end of the winter season, the bridge was showing damage.
Peter Rice, senior project manager with the city’s engineering department, wrote in a memorandum to the city council that this time around, reinforcements are being made.
“The final piece to the project is an additional second layer of asphalt to be placed over the bridge to improve the strength of the asphalt and repair the peeling that has occurred in several locations,” he wrote.
The project was identified by the city as a major link in the bike and pedestrian connectivity options coming into Aspen. Along with improvements to the road itself, a sidewalk on the north side of the bridge was widened and a protective railing built to separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic. The route continues into a reconfigured path behind the 8th Street bus stops.
“The most exciting component completed is the new trail that extends from the west side of Castle Creek Bridge to 7th Street along Hallam Street,” Rice wrote. “People can safely cross Castle Creek Bridge and continue along a wider trail.”
The public got its first taste of a wider pedestrian lane across the bridge in 2016, when the city built a faux sidewalk and re-painted traffic lanes in a “living lab” to show what the project would ultimately look like.
The bridge sees more than 22,000 crossings per day, on average. Prior to the project’s start, detractors said they were worried that the narrower traffic lanes would slow the commute into Aspen. A timeline of the project provided to council members cites such concerns as the reason for the additional community outreach that delayed the project.
“Public outreach and planning continues for Living Lab Experiment due to public and stakeholder concerns that narrowing the roadway lanes on the bridge would have a negative impact on traffic and congestion,” it states.
Gould Construction was awarded the contract for the permanent repairs and redesign of the corridor, and worked throughout the 2018 spring and fall off-seasons to update the decking, waterproof it, and repave the crossing and street leading into the city.
Rice said some of the waterproofing may have been damaged when laying it down during last fall’s cold, wet season, allowing water to seep under the asphalt. The Castle Creek Bridge is flat and it’s hard to create drainage flow once water has seeped into the structure.
Additionally, engineers have advised against drilling holes into the aging infrastructure. To get an accurate picture of the maze of rebar in the subsurface, sonar technology was used during the summer to identify the best placement for new drainage.
“We only want to go back once,” Rice said. “Let’s make sure we are doing it right, and one time.”
Four temporary patches have been used to fill the potholes created from the water seepage. Those projects have caused minimal detours in 2019, and are considered under the scope of the original contract with Gould, which totaled more than $4 million.
Once next week’s repairs are completed, an additional warranty will cover any necessary repairs over two years, negating the need for more public dollars during that time.