CDOT bridge planner Elsen to retire |

CDOT bridge planner Elsen to retire

Joe Elsen, Colorado Department of Transportation program engineer since 2003, is shown in this 2007 photo explaining a crack that had developed in the ceiling of one of the Glenwood Canyon/Interstate 70 tunnels. Elsen plans to retire at the end of June after 30 years with the state highway department.
Post Independent file |

Just as the final push toward construction of a new Grand Avenue bridge is about to begin, one of the main men behind the three-and-a-half-year planning effort is ready to pass the baton.

Joe Elsen, the Colorado Department of Transportation Region 3 program engineer since 2003 who is coming up on his 30-year anniversary with CDOT, is preparing to retire at the end of June.

“I always kind of knew that when my 30 years was up, that would be the ideal time to retire,” Elsen said, explaining that the state’s retirement plan is favorable toward taking retirement after that particular anniversary.

Though intimately involved in the planning for the new state Highway 82 bridge in Glenwood Springs since Day One, when that effort began in mid-2011, including the extensive Environmental Assessment process, Elsen said his departure will not leave the project in a lurch.

CDOT’s resident engineer in Glenwood Springs, Roland Wagner, has already been assigned as project manager for the bridge, and project engineer Josh Cullen will remain part of the team, Elsen said.

“Everyone on the team is very professional and capable,” he said. “I don’t see any issues.”

A formal “decision document” is expected in mid-May from the Federal Highway Administration. If a finding of “no significant impact” is determined, it would give final authorization for the estimated $100 million-plus bridge replacement project to move forward.

Final design work and pricing agreements with construction consultants and would-be general contractors Granite Construction and R.L. Wadsworth would follow, Elsen said.

Tracy Trulove, communications director for CDOT Region 3, said the regional program engineer’s position is already being advertised and the hope is to have that position filled by the time Elsen leaves.

“In the meantime, Roland and Josh and a lot of the rest of the team have been involved in this (Grand Avenue bridge) as much as Joe, and will continue in that,” she said.

Elsen, 54, recalled that he was the resident engineer working on another $100 million project, the Highway 82 four-lane project in Snowmass Canyon, when he was working his way up to program engineer.

Elsen began working with CDOT as part of the survey crew on the Glenwood Canyon project in the mid-1980s, which led to the completion of the final link of Interstate 70 upon its completion in 1992.

He eventually took on the role of project engineer overseeing various aspects of that $480 million four-lane highway construction project, which became recognized as an engineering marvel worldwide.

He later had crucial roles on the Snowmass Canyon project. And, as Region 3 program engineer he oversaw the two phases of the Grand Avenue paving projects in Glenwood Springs between 2005 and 2009, which replaced the former asphalt pavement with concrete.

Elsen, who has lived in Glenwood Springs during his time with CDOT, said he doesn’t have any immediate plans after retirement, but quipped, “I’ll probably take a month off.”

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