COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Road construction crews in Colorado Springs reached a major milestone on a bridge replacement project that will greatly improve public safety on the southeast side. New box culverts are being installed as part of the $7 million Airport Road bridge replacement project.
Aaron Egbert, senior engineer with the City of Colorado Springs explained that the previous 47-year old bridge was too narrow for the volume of water that rushes down Spring Creek and frequently flooded the road.
"We've got a lot of undeveloped lands upstream, there was a lot of trees and debris," Egbert explained.
"Historically, that would kind of pile up on the box culvert itself and then the water would over top, and then with having a fire station that's right next to it, it's really not safe to have a bridge that's hydraulically inadequate."
The new bridge will be at least double the size of the one it replaces leaving more room for water in Spring Creek and more space for pedestrian traffic on the bridge deck.
City Councilwoman Yolanda Avila lives nearby and said that the previous bridge was dangerous for pedestrians.
"It was like just a little walkway before and now it's going to be super expanded where you know couples and families can walk across very safely," Avila said.
She expects pedestrians to soon have an easier time accessing city bus stops on Academy Boulevard and walking to local food markets on the east side of the creek.
The city maintains an inventory of 442 bridges. Egbert said his department is constantly monitoring those structures. The city keeps a priority list of bridges that have scored poorly on their inspections and checks them every 90 days.
The Airport Road project was funded as one of the capital projects under the most recent Pikes Peak Rural Transit Authority (PPRTA) 1 percent sales tax. Councilwoman Avila represents the city council on both the PPRTA board and the Pikes Peak Council of Governments board.
She's optimistic that the $550 billion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last fall will lead to more funding for local road and bridge improvements.
"We are keeping a close eye on it, we're getting updated constantly on where that money is and how we grab it," Avila said.
Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper announced Friday that Colorado should receive at least $4.99 billion in funding from the infrastructure bill. He estimates that $225 million would specifically be spent repairing or replacing old bridges in our state.
The current PPRTA sales tax was last renewed by voters in 2015. It is set to expire in 2024. Avila said the group is already preparing a new capital projects list in anticipation of asking voters for another extension under PPRTA Three.