DOTSERO — The new Dotsero bridge came in ahead of schedule and in the perfect spot.
When designers and the construction company sat down with locals to design the replacement for the big, green metal bridge, it dawned on everyone that they’d planned to put it right on the spot where rafters and kayakers launch boats into the Colorado River. But it all worked out swimmingly for the boaters.
The green metal bridge has spanned the Colorado River at Dotsero since it was built in 1935. By the time construction started a year ago, Department of Transportation engineers rated the bridge as “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”
The pillars were bad, and then they learned it was covered in lead paint,
But Department of Transportation officials told Eagle County that if they wanted it, they could have first crack at it — an offer the county could refuse.
“It was going to cost $1.5 million just to fix the pilings, and then all the lead paint would have to be stripped off it,” said Eagle County Commissioner Sara Fisher.
The Department of Transportation has been doing their part for boaters for years, Fisher said.
“They’ve turned a blind eye to the fact that people have been illegally parking there forever,” Fisher said.
It wasn’t entirely a coincidence that Eagle County bought some open space across the road, spending $650,000 in open space funds for Dotsero Landing, 8.5 acres that used to be part of a sheep ranch belonging to Rudi Neumeyer. There’s a big parking area built there for boaters and others to use.
When the Department of Transportation learned how much Eagle County was investing in this, they decided to put in a pedestrian path as part of the new bridge.
Department of Transportation and federal highway officials also learned that the county’s long range plans included a roundabout at the Dotsero Interstate 70 interchange. They decided to make it part of the overall Dotsero project.
“For $350,000 instead of $1.3 million, we decided to wait to build the roundabout and make it part of the whole project,” Fisher said.
All that togetherness is one of the first times the Department of Transportation used a new contract management/general contracting process, making the contractor part of the design process.
The process helped hammer out details more easily, such as traveler safety, pier depth, environmental factors and where to put it, said Joe Elsen, Department of Transportation Region 3 central program engineer.
The replacement bridge is part of that larger project that includes a new roundabout connecting the I-70 ramps with the frontage road. It has standard width lanes, shoulders and a pedestrian path.
It’s also another link in creating a paved trail from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon, said Ellie Caryl, the ECO Trails program manager.
“The project is a model for new road and bridge construction with ample room for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians,” Caryl said.
Officials from Eagle County, the Colorado Department of Transportation and federal officials spent part of a perfect autumn afternoon Thursday celebrating and opening the new bridge. Construction started in September 2012 and crews finished one month early.
Edward Kraemer and Sons Inc., did the $6.6 million the job. The Department of Transportation picked up $6.2 million and Eagle County kicked in $410,000.
The Department of Transportation’s share came through the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, part of the 2009 federal stimulus package. The bridge enterprise fund is designed to finance the repair, reconstruction or replacement of bridges in poor condition.
“This bridge replacement is also representative of the positive results coming from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, innovative contracting and partnerships with local agencies like Eagle County,” said Don Hunt, Department of Transportation executive director.
The new bridge is also better for the river, and allows the river the least obstructed flow under the bridge, said Peter Lombardi, Department of Transportation resident engineer. The piers and the abutments are embedded in the bedrock.
The new bridge will withstand a 100-year flood event with four feet of clearance to spare, so even under those conditions it will accommodate river traffic. The previous bridge was designed for a 50-year flood and had to be closed when the river elevation rose to within 2 feet of the bottom of the bridge.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.