Bridge repair $115,000 higher than expected

KEN HENRY, mayor OF FRUITA, looks through the holes in the Fruita Bridge as a loader diverts the river around a piling, which may be washed away if repairs are not done soon.

The century-old Fruita Bridge is getting an extreme makeover as winter holds down the flows of the Colorado River, allowing construction crews to stabilize the structure’s north end.

“By spring, if everything works right, we’ll have two new piers” supporting the north end of the bridge, Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said.

“And that buys quite a bit of time for the rest of the bridge to be repaired.”

Crews will drill caissons into the soft rock underlaying the north end of the bridge that will allow for the bridge to be stabilized, Henry said.

Work is continuing because the Fruita City Council agreed last week to underwrite the unexpected cost.

The expense arose when the City Council learned the north end was set into sandstone.

The rest of the bridge pilings are set into shale, “but for some reason the geological gods put sandstone underneath the north end,” requiring extra work to shore it up, Henry said.

The discovery came late in the process, so late that the council had to choose between extremes.

“It was either agree to pay the additional $115,000 or dismantle and destroy the bridge,” Henry said.

The city already has committed $120,000 and Mesa County $130,000 toward preserving the bridge.

Fruita town officials see the old bridge as a key to offering pedestrians and bicyclists the opportunity to cross the river to visit Dinosaur Hill and Colorado National Monument without having to deal with cars and trucks on a busy thoroughfare.

For 70 years, the Fruita Bridge was the most convenient way across the Colorado River west of Grand Junction, and it’s considered a historic place.

The Colorado Historical Fund also has pledged $200,000 to preserve the three-span truss bridge.

And it hasn’t given up on the project.

“We want the bridge saved,” said Lori Dunklee, spokeswoman for the fund.

Built in 1907 as a one-lane bridge for cars, it was placed on the National Register in 1985.

Though the town will underwrite the additional costs, Henry said he will try to raise money to recoup some of the cost.

“It’s not the best time” to be asking for money, Henry acknowledged, “but it was a big hill when we started this three years ago.”


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