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CDOT repairs metro area bridge after neighbors reach out to Denver7 Investigates

The bridge along Sheridan Boulevard just north of Highway 285 appeared to fall into such disrepair, Ben Blanchard wondered if it was safe.

Blanchard has lived in southwest Denver since 1986 and said he has never seen anyone work to fix the bridge, which is owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). His neighbors used terms like “neglected,” “blight” and “crumbling.”

Looking at the bridge, there are signs of crumbling concrete, exposed rebar and damaged guardrails, portions of which are covered up by plywood.

“I contacted CDOT and tried to get some answers,” Blanchard said. “They said, ‘We don’t have the money in the budget to fix this bridge.’”

Blanchard reached out to Denver7 Investigates about the condition after two years of exhausting their resources, trying to get someone to listen.

Denver7 Investigates looked into the data available through the Federal Highway Administration, which shows that this particular bridge is listed in fair condition.

“If that’s what passes for fair, I would hate to see ‘poor,’” Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn said of the bridge.

Neighbors initially brought their concerns to Flynn, but since it is not a City of Denver bridge, he learned the onus would be on CDOT to make any repairs.

But this bridge isn’t alone. Roughly 60% of all CDOT bridges in the database report to be in fair condition. However, bridge experts with CDOT and outside entities say that just because a bridge might not look great, that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.

CDOT is responsible for more than 3,400 bridges that are inspected every two years, per federal standards. All are rated either good, fair or poor. It is required that no more than 10% of the bridges can be rated poor. Just over 5% of CDOT’s bridges fit in that category. About 33% of the bridges are labeled in good condition.

Below is an interactive map of all CDOT-maintained bridges that are rated poor, as of the most recent data.

Denver7 Investigates visited some of the poor rated bridges in the Denver metro area and those also show exposed rebar and crumbling concrete.

Chris Senseney, bridge expert and associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering with the University of Colorado Boulder, said Colorado is at a point where many of the state’s bridges are near the end of their useful lives.

CDOT repairs metro area bridge after neighbors reach out to Denver7 Investigates

“A lot of our infrastructure in the United States, in Colorado, including our bridges, were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” Senseney said.

The Sheridan bridge brought to Denver7 Investigates was built in 1961. Data shows that the average age of the 184 poor-rated CDOT bridges is 69 years.

Senseney said he can understand the neighborhood’s frustration with the Sheridan bridge, but noted that the state’s bridges are in pretty good condition overall.

Last month, CDOT was forced to shut down a bridge along Highway 50 in the Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison because of anomalies in the bridge identified during a safety inspection.

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That bridge also had a fair rating on its most recent inspection, but CDOT Bridge Asset Management Engineer Natasha Butler said a new inspection was needed after issues cropped up on a similar bridge.

She said, however, that if a bridge is open to the public, regardless of its rating, it is safe.

“Our inspectors have looked at them and deemed them to be safe,” she said. “It might look bad… It might not be aesthetically pleasing to see corroded rebar or (cracks in the concrete), but these aren’t defects that are considered structurally unsafe or unsound.”

Butler said that poor-rated bridges mainly have more widespread deterioration and will cost more to bring it to good condition. Fair bridges need more routine maintenance akin to changing tires on a car, while good bridges only have minor defects.

As for the bridge on Sheridan, Butler confirmed that CDOT has started work to fix the railing and snow barriers on that bridge.

“CDOT heard those concerns and responded to that,” she said.

Blanchard and his neighbors said they were thrilled to see crews working on the bridge— something they thought would never happen.

“I’m very excited that, after many years, they’re actually doing something to make this more attractive and possibly safer,” he said.



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