Vail Daily letter: Vail’s ugly bridge |

Vail Daily letter: Vail’s ugly bridge

Vail is noted for its beauty — our visitors admire the view towards Holy Cross from on top of the ski runs, and the view up the valley towards the Grand Traverse is memorable and oft photographed. And it is not just natural beauty — our visitors enjoy the Covered Bridge and our many interesting buildings. Vail has the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission to ensure that we preserve our town’s beauty.

But now we have an ugly, inappropriate doozy on what was a lovely bridge in East Vail where Main Gore crosses over Gore Creek until some weeks ago — a new set of rusty steel railings and crash barriers. These barriers are designed to absorb the energy of a vehicle that crashes at high speed into it — it is so well designed that a tractor trailer traveling at high speed would survive.

Let me explain this engineering marvel. Each leading edge of the barriers is a heavy steel curved plate that is designed to crumple if it is hit by a vehicle head on, absorbing a lot of kinetic energy. Then it has a double-anchored heavy cable so that if a very fast, heavy vehicle hits it, the first cable that is anchored to a newly installed pier takes the initial load, and if that pier is ripped out, then the second cable anchored to the next pier takes over. Then we have nine I-beam piers that support, with big rubber bumpers, a heavy guide member This is all before we get onto the bridge. On the bridge we have three heavy steel box beams that are anchored to I-beam columns that are anchored to the bridge itself. Heavy, strong bolts everywhere.

And thank goodness the driver of a fully loaded tractor trailer doing 75 MPH would probably survive. Safety first. This bridge is more heavily engineered than any bridge on I-70. But is is not nearly as graceful as the bridges on I-70. This bridge looks like the steel bridges when the Transcontinental Railway was put in 150 years ago.

And if you walk over the bridge and stop to admire the creek, as many people do every day, don’t hold onto the new box beam railings as they are made of a rusting steel, and don’t slide your hand along the railing as you’ll get cut on the sharp edges of the I-beam columns that hold these railings. This bridge is not made for pedestrians

This bridge is inappropriate and ugly. I’ve lived right by that bridge for about 25 years. The speed limit is 15, not 75 mph!. Once or twice each year we see a tractor trailer come down the road, usually a moving van, and traveling very slowly and cautiously. Never has a car ended up in the creek. What was the town’s Public Works thinking?

And here is the painful irony. The bridge may be less safe than before. The mouth of the railings to the bridge that stop cars from going off the road and into the creek, and that guide vehicles onto the bridge, were 42 feet wide before this change. That¹s been reduced to 30 feet. Narrower is safer? And the contractor left a deep hole that they did not fill on one of the first piers — like a mini tank trap.

How did we get this monstrosity in our lovely, quiet neighborhood? We have a systemic problem. Public Works do not have to present their plans to the DRB or the Planning Commission. Why not?

And Public Works may be about to double up. The same contractors are busily working on the “bridge” by the East Vail Market.

Please, get rid of this god-awful crash barrier, and change the system so that Public Works has to get approval from the DRB and/or the Planning Commission before it does anything that affects the beauty of our town.

Tom Hopkins

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