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Manitou Springs City Council to vote on future of historic bridge

July 16, 2017 Updated: July 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm
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Construction crews work on the bridge on Friday, July 14, 2017 in Manitou Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

The Manitou Springs City Council is likely to decide on Tuesday whether to repair or raze and replace a historic stone arch bridge, ending a lengthy debate that has pitted residents against some city officials.

The council has been searching for a solution to the Brook Street Bridge dilemma since spring of 2015, when the city closed the bridge to vehicles and pedestrians after engineers said it was a safety hazard.

The bridge, which spans Ruxton Creek at Brook Street and Ruxton Avenue, is one of three "true stone arch bridges" in town, said Ann Nichols, chairwoman of the Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission. While the city is home to other similar bridges, many are partially concrete, she added.

The council voted in July 2016 to find a contractor to demolish the early 20th century bridge - a decision that drew ire from residents who believed the structure was salvageable. Following objections from the public, the council directed staff in January to issue a request for proposals to explore options for rehabilitation.

"Deconstruction would have been done by now if we'd stuck with our original vote. And we probably would have had a new bridge by now, actually," said Manitou Springs Mayor Nicole Nicoletta, who voted against the measure to consider rehabilitation. "It's important for the community to know we've gone down this path before. We have looked at rehabilitation."

The council is slated to approve one of two contracts: a roughly $237,000 contract with Murphy Constructors of Colorado Springs to rehabilitate the bridge or a nearly $95,000 contract with Amec Foster Wheeler to demolish the arch. Under the rehabilitation contract, the project would be scheduled for completion next May.

Last month, city officials called for a vote of citizens at a town hall meeting about the bridge, asking what option they preferred. All 55 people in attendance were in favor of repairing the bridge.

"There's no question about what the preference is," said Jim Romano, a Brook Street resident. "People are baffled that it's such a struggle."

He and his neighbors are frustrated with the city, which they believe has been slow to take action on the bridge.

Romano said he supports rehabilitation, in part because the bridge would reopen in the foreseeable future. If the council chooses demolishing it, it will have to approve another contract for reconstruction. With maintenance costs factored in, the city estimates demolition and reconstruction will cost about $600,000, plus inspections.

The council was originally scheduled to vote on the contracts June 27, but the decision was postponed so officials could work out a few details with Murphy Constructors.

"It's been a long road, but I think we're at the point where they're going to have the ability to look at a proposal from a very qualified contractor to do what we've been asking, and that's to rehabilitate the bridge," Nichols said.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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