ASPEN –Stein Bridge and its trail connections in the Roaring Fork Gorge will be closed to traffic starting next week to allow replacement of the span’s aging abutments. The bridge will also be raised by 3 feet to better accommodate boating on the Roaring Fork River at high water.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has contracted with Mueller Construction Services, of Glenwood Springs, for the roughly $250,000 project. The work will also include new approaches to the bridge and improvements to Stein Trail linking the bridge and the Rio Grande Trail. The contractor will mobilize at the site on Sept. 8 and the bridge will be closed to traffic, blocking access to the Rio Grande Trail from population centers on the west side of the river. The span connects the Rio Grande to the side of the river where the Aspen Business Center and Burlingame Ranch are located.
The Cemetery Lane bridge, also known as Slaughterhouse Bridge, located closer to Aspen, is the closest alternative to reach the Rio Grande Trail from the west side of the river.
The project is expected to continue through November, but the inconvenience can’t be helped, according to Lindsey Utter, senior environmental planner with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.
“This project has been in the works for a while. The abutments need to be replaced and the fall-offseason seems to be the best option to get it done,” she said. “We didn’t want to interrupt the summer boating season.”
The late Henry L. Stein moved the span from Basalt to its current spot over the river and conveyed it to Pitkin County for a dollar. It was dedicated on Dec. 31, 1973. A plaque on the bridge reads: “This bridge was originally built in 1890, across the Roaring Fork River in Basalt, Colorado. It was moved here in October, 1973, by Henry Stein, John Rodriguez, Mike Weiley, Kelly Jamison, Billy Jamison.”
The bridge was installed after Stein lost his office space in Aspen and relocated to the business center. He wanted to ride his horse between his Stein Ranch on the hillside opposite the river to his new office. Various pieces of the Stein Ranch are now open space parcels that help make up what is collectively referred to as the Roaring Fork Gorge.
The new abutments will raise up the bridge, requiring a reworking of the approaches on either side of the span. Private and commercial boaters have voiced support for more head room between the bridge and the river when the water is running high in the spring and early summer. High water can halt boating beneath the span altogether, and it’s not unusual to see whitewater rafters ducking to get beneath it. The bridge is located downstream from the popular Slaughterhouse Falls rapid on the Roaring Fork.
Contact: Lindsey UtterSenior environmental planner, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails970-920-5224 or firstname.lastname@example.org