CDOT says I-70 East viaduct in Denver is crumbling — again
The I-70 East viaduct between Brighton and Colorado boulevards in north Denver has been fixed so many times that the fixes are failing, the Colorado Department of Transportation said Friday.
The north Denver viaduct was built in 1964 and has been fixed several times since then. It currently carries more than 115,000 vehicles per day and is the target of a planned $1.17 billion overhaul that includes lowering about two miles of the heavily used highway and building a lid over part of it.
Initial signs of cracking and deterioration were first detected in 1981, triggering regular inspections and repairs to the structure, CDOT said Friday.
Then, in 1997, CDOT installed tension rods to reduce cracking along the viaduct. And in 2005, CDOT said heavier trucks and trailers carrying big loads couldn’t use the viaduct — in another effort to prolong its life.
Another round of major repairs, totaling more than $30 million, were made in 2011, the agency said.
Now, two post tension rods that were part of the 1997 repair work have corroded and separated from the bridge, according to a recently completed inspection.
But the broken cables “are easily visible from the side of the bridge,” CDOT said Friday. The bridge’s existing backup cables remain in place, and the bridge remains structurally sound and safe for public travel, CDOT said.
But the failure of the 1997 fixes highlights the fact that the viaduct is old and needs to be replaced, CDOT’s Chief Engineer Josh Laipply said Friday.
The agency will be inspecting the bridge more frequently and is developing repair plans if more components of the viaduct deteriorate, Laipply said.
“Safety of the public remains our primary focus,” he said.
Tony DeVito, director of CDOT’s I-70 East Project, also said the deterioration isn’t a public safety concern — but emphasized that the agency is “working under a clock” to overhaul the aging viaduct.
“CDOT will continue to make the repairs we need to keep the bridge safe, but our ultimate goal remains to permanently address both this aging structure and growing congestion along this stretch of interstate,” DeVita said. “We are taking the final steps to bring major and long lasting safety and congestion improvements to I-70 East.”
About 150 companies have expressed interest in the I-70 East project, which includes expanding I-70 between I-25 and I-225, adding toll lanes and sinking a portion of it between Brighton and Colorado boulevards. A statement of qualifications from teams of companies who want the project is due to CDOT on June 22.
A four-acre park has been proposed as a landscaped, park-like “lid” over the top of the sunken highway near the Swansea Elementary School.
The project also includes adding new Express Toll lanes to the highway and removing the 50-year-old viaduct in north Denver.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cathy Proctor covers energy, the environment and transportation for the Denver Business Journal and edits the weekly "Energy Inc." email newsletter. Phone: 303-803-9233. Subscribe to the Energy Inc. newsletter
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