Duckels Construction worker Ivan Garcia bolts together pieces of a temporary bridge where U.S. Highway 40 crosses at the east fork of the Elk River. The $3.1 million construction project to improve the highway, including replacing the existing bridge, has been halted temporarily in order to correct a bridge support that wasn’t properly placed.

John F. Russell/file

Duckels Construction worker Ivan Garcia bolts together pieces of a temporary bridge where U.S. Highway 40 crosses at the east fork of the Elk River. The $3.1 million construction project to improve the highway, including replacing the existing bridge, has been halted temporarily in order to correct a bridge support that wasn’t properly placed.

Elk River Bridge construction on hold while issue with caisson is resolved

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— A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation confirmed Tuesday that construction on the new $3.1 million U.S. Highway 40 bridge over the Elk River west of Steamboat Springs has been halted temporarily in order to correct a bridge support called a caisson that wasn’t properly placed because of a surveying error.

CDOT’s Ashley Mohr said her department remains optimistic that with construction crews working on weekends once work resumes, there still is a possibility of completing the bridge on schedule by the end of November. She added that CDOT and construction contractor Duckels Construction found the discrepancy together.

“The contractor and CDOT caught it. As we go through a construction project, we do evaluations to make sure it’s going the way we want it to,” Mohr said. “There was a survey issue. It’s not far off. We’re being picky. We want it to be perfect.”

Officials at Duckels Construction were not available for comment during business hours Tuesday.

The new bridge will replace a narrow, two-lane bridge that was built in 1958 and was deemed functionally obsolete, in part because it does not have sufficient shoulders.

Mohr said she first was made aware of the halt on construction Aug. 14. Both east and westbound traffic have been detoured since early June onto a temporary bridge where traffic has been slowed during construction. Traffic speeds currently begin stepping down to 55 mph at Saddle Mountain Ranch, then 45 mph and finally 35 mph on the bridge.

“We’re lucky the detour is in place, and we’re very confident the detour is safe,” Mohr said.

Engineers have arrived at a strategy for rectifying the issue with the caisson, Mohr said, but work can’t begin until new design plans are executed. She added that she is not aware of the details of the plan, but the next phase of construction, pouring concrete for bridge abutments, can’t begin until the repair is made.

Funding for the project is coming from the Colorado Bridge Enterprise, according to Mohr. She said discussion about who will bear the cost of the caisson fix is yet to be determined, but it will not be the taxpayers who shoulder the bill.

CDOT told Steamboat Today in late May that construction this summer would carry on from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Now, the prospect of requiring crews to work through the weekend is being considered.

“The contractor has been great and is willing to take on weekend work if necessary,” Mohr said. “We’ll be doing our darnedest to keep it on schedule.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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