Bridge Answer Man column: How the Grand Avenue bridge is paid for |

Bridge Answer Man column: How the Grand Avenue bridge is paid for

Tom Newland
Bridge Answer Man column sig

With the construction on the Grand Avenue Bridge approximately one-third completed, let’s review one of the finer details of the project — costs and funding.

The final budget for the project is $125.6 million and is paid for by the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, Colorado Department of Transportation, with contributions from utility companies and several local governments, including the city of Glenwood Springs ($3 million), Garfield County ($3 million) and Eagle County ($300,000).

In addition, the local governments in the upper valley (Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County) acting as the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, are contributing $330,000 toward increased RFTA operations during the 2017 bridge closure detour. The construction cost for the project is estimated at $75 million, with the remaining $50.6 million covering utility work, land acquisition, environmental approvals and project design.

Colorado Bridge Enterprise was formed in 2009 as part of the state’s FASTER (Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery) legislation. It operates as a government-owned business within CDOT. The Colorado Transportation Commission serves as the CBE board. The purpose of the CBE is to finance, repair, reconstruct and replace bridges designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and rated as “poor.”

The Grand Avenue Bridge was selected to receive funds after a CDOT study found the bridge to have functional, structural and safety deficiencies. A structurally deficient bridge is one for which the deck, the superstructure (supports immediately beneath the driving surface) or the substructure (foundation and supporting posts and piers) are rated “poor.” The Grand Avenue Bridge is one of the bridges in the state that has a “poor” rating and therefore had priority for funding.

CBE money comes from vehicle registration bridge safety surcharges, ranging from $13 to $32, based upon vehicle weight. Revenues from the bridge safety surcharge fee are estimated to generate approximately $100 million a year.

To qualify for the CBE funds, a bridge must meet the eligibility criteria established by the CBE board of directors. Eligible bridges must be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and rated “poor” by CDOT. A “poor” rated structure has a sufficiency rating less than 50. CBE projects are prioritized by a number of criteria including: ability to complete design and construction in an accelerated amount of time, cost-effectiveness and program efficiencies, project readiness and resource availability.

Since 2009, 120 bridges have been completed across the state using CBE money, with 72 currently in construction, planning or reaching eligible status.

On Nov. 19, 2015, the Colorado Transportation Commission, acting as the CBE, approved the supplemental budget required to allow the Grand Avenue bridge project to proceed to construction.

As of December 2016, approximately 45 percent of the projected $75 million construction budget has been used. We have a packed construction schedule for 2017. Stayed tuned and engaged to see the project unfold.

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