Durango has the notorious Bridge to Nowhere. Montezuma County may soon have a historic bridge to somewhere else.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has offered to donate to the county a classic truss bridge from Montrose County that will soon be removed, officials report.
The gift is being considered for use on the Paths to Mesa Verde trail project connecting Cortez to Mancos, but exactly where it would be used is unknown.
Because of its age, this week CDOT will begin removing the 65-year-old bridge, which spans the Dolores River on Colorado Highway 90, about four miles east of Bedrock.
Motorists will continue to use a temporary bridge, while a new precast concrete bridge is built.
SEMA Construction, of Denver, has been awarded the contract to dismantle the old bridge and build the new one, estimated to cost $3.8 million. When finished by late summer 2017, it will provide several improvements for the driving public, including wider lanes and higher clearance for oversized vehicles.
Two years ago, a crack was discovered in a beam of the bridge, and the damage forced its closure.
Historic engineeringThe Dolores River Bridge is a steel Pennsylvania through-truss bridge build in 1952. In 2002, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance. The 129-foot span is one of 10 remaining intact, steel through-truss bridges statewide.
CDOT is working with the county to donate the bridge for pedestrian and bike path use, said Lisa Schwantes, CDOT communications manager, and it will be delivered to Cortez at no cost.
“You are the strongest hope for a new home for this historic and beautiful bridge,” she said.
County planners said they have agreed to take the structure and plan to store it at the fairgrounds. One potential use for it is on the proposed Paths to Mesa Verde project, a proposed 17-mile nonmotorized trail connecting Cortez and Mancos to Mesa Verde National Park.
The trail is in its very initial planning stages, and where the bridge could possibly go has not been determined, said county planner James Dietrich.
“It would be cool to preserve and repurpose it, but we don’t have a place for it at this early stage of the project,” he said.
It could be used as bridge to connect the trail across U.S. Highway 160, including to the Phil’s World trail system or Southwest Colorado Community College. It may come in handy for getting the trail across McElmo Creek or irrigation canals within the proposed trail corridor, which includes both sides of the highway.
The bridge has some challenges, including lead paint that would need to be mitigated. Reassembling the bridge would be an expense for the county, Dietrich said, estimated to cost about $263,000.
“Since it is a historic structure, we could be eligible for a historic preservation grant,” he said.
The bridge was designed by the Colorado Department of Highways, fabricated by Midwest Steel & Iron Works, and built by Gardner Construction Company.
Never commonly used in Colorado, Pennsylvania trusses represented a refinement of the standard Pratt truss, both of which were pioneered by the railroads and later constructed to carry vehicular traffic.