Red Cliff bridge repairs on the way |

Red Cliff bridge repairs on the way

Christine Ina Casillas
Red Cliff Bridge 9-5/ Mk edit

All traffic from Minturn to Leadville will be shut down next spring for badly needed repairs on the bridge in Red Cliff.

“If there was a way we could create less congestion through that road during this construction time, we would,” said Joe Elsen, program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We’re telling commuters to plan on not going through Red Cliff.”

Neither the town nor the transportation department doubt that the bridge needs major repairs, said Guy Patterson, Red Cliff town manger.

“We’re anxious to get this project going,” Patterson said. “We don’t want anymore traffic accidents on that road. We want it to be user-friendly and safe. We’re going to make sure it’s good for everybody.”

People who live on Water Street in Red Cliff will be impacted the most by the project – and by the traffic, Patterson said. The $3.5 million project is scheduled to begin March 1.

Rep. Carl Miller, a Leadville Democrat, said the project could help or hinder the towns. He said closing the highway completely might not be the best idea.

“I suggested to CDOT that they at least allow small vehicular traffic through there, because that little road (Water Street) is so narrow that it might not hold the traffic,” Miller said.

Four projects will be in progress in 2004, 2005 and 2006 around the same time as the Red Cliff bridge is being repaired, Miller and transportation department officials said. All the projects along U.S. Highway 24 between Minturn to Leadville are slated for 176 days.

“Leadville depends on all of that traffic,” Miller said. “Obviously the bridge is the main project, and it is in major need of repairs. We’re even going to try to get CDOT to limit the road to employee traffic going through it. But we’ll see.”

Transportation officials said that they are working with ECO Transit to provide bus service through the town to help alleviate traffic congestion.

Transportation officials also said they’re trying to cut the length of the construction time by squeezing it into a 176-day slot.

“The bridge is a historic structure,” Elsen said. “It’s badly in need of repainting, and the concrete deck needs to be replaced.”

Department officials said they want the project to put as little burden as possible on the residents of Red Cliff and the commuters traveling the scenic byway.

The bridge – built for $150,000 in 1940 – is 318-feet long.

“Painting isn’t going to be an easy feat,” Elsen said. “We want to make sure our guys are in a safe position in a harness when painting in order to do a good job and be safe while doing it.”

The concrete deck of the bridge will be ripped off in Mid-April, he said. During the construction of the bridge, both lanes of the highway will be closed.

“There’s no way to rip off half the deck in order to allow a one-lane road,” he said. “Both lanes will be closed.”

And to protect the cars traveling under the bridge, the department will install suspended scaffolding “to catch the pieces that break up the concrete so that it doesn’t hit anything down below,” he said.

The bridge also will be widened on the shoulders by about three feet to allow cyclists and drivers feel more at ease crossing that highway, he said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

At a glance

Red Cliff bridge meeting

The Colorado Department of Transportation will be meeting with Red Cliff residents to discuss work on the Red Cliff bridge at 6 p.m., Monday at the Red Cliff Town Hall, 400 Pine Street.

For more information, call 827-5303.

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