Colorado fixing 7 problem bridges with stimulus money |

Colorado fixing 7 problem bridges with stimulus money

Associated Press Writer
** EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:01 A.M. EDT, FRIDAY, JULY 31 ** Workers construct a new bridge at 74th Avenue and I-76 northeast of Denver in Commerce City, Colo., on Wednesday, July 29, 2009. Two bridges are being replaced with $10.9 million in federal stimulus money. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER – Seven of 10 state-owned bridges that will be repaired or replaced with federal stimulus money are ranked as having some kind of structural or safety problem. Four are considered to be among the state’s worst.

But when all of Colorado’s $400 million in highway stimulus money is spent, the state will still have another 124 bridges ranked in poor condition – the lowest rating in the state’s system.

Colorado is spending about $48 million of its stimulus money to fix or replace the seven problem bridges as well as build three new ones. Some of that money will go to other supporting work such as improving drainage and building shoulder embankments.

Like many states, Colorado didn’t target its highway stimulus funds for bridges. Instead, it relied heavily on the recommendations of local governments to decide which projects, including roads, to fund. The transportation commission, appointed by the governor, had the final say on which jobs got money.

Colorado’s roadways are in worse shape than its bridges. State transportation department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said 47 percent of the state’s highways are considered to be in poor condition. By contrast, only about 5 percent of the 8,614 bridges state-owned bridges are considered to be in poor condition.

Stegman said officials also knew they could use half of new vehicle registration fees passed by lawmakers this year on bridges. Those fees are expected to raise $250 million a year when they’re fully phased in.

“The urgency of putting this money toward bridges wasn’t there,” Stegman said.

Across the country, bridges are scored between 1 and 100 based on factors including safety, structure and traffic volume. Engineers also take into account how serviceable the bridges are, including whether there’s enough clearance for trucks.

Colorado labels any bridge with a score of under 50 as poor. Some 128 bridges fall into that category.

One of the most recognizable – and busiest – is the Interstate 70 viaduct near the Denver Coliseum. It has a score of 27 and would cost $800 million – more than double Colorado’s stimulus share – to fix. Instead, CDOT plans to spend about $25 million on repairs to extend its life.

An Associated Press analysis of stimulus bridge projects nationwide found that more than half of states will work on fewer than two dozen bridges. It also found that some of the nation’s worst bridges were being bypassed with stimulus money instead going to bridges that are in better shape, or to repaving projects.

Wyoming is fixing 42 bridges but only about a third are considered to have problems. Utah is working on 18 bridges, about half of which are labeled structurally deficient or obsolete.

In Colorado, the three new bridges will be built along U.S. 285 in the foothills of Jefferson County. The project includes new frontage roads and a wildlife underpass.

In addition to the 10 state bridges, stimulus money will be used to help build municipal bridges and interchanges in Colorado Springs, Denver and Aurora.

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