After studies conducted by the Town’s engineering firm SEH and the Colorado Department of Transportation, it has been determined that Mancos must replace its 100-year-old Main Street bridge to ensure the continued safety of those who use it. There is severe concrete deterioration in the deck soffit and girders. Additionally, there are spalls with exposed rebar in the exterior bays of the deck totaling approximately 45 feet, longitudinal cracks, and honeycomb voids with exposed rebar.
The bridge has served Mancos well for the last century and adds to the historic charm, yet it has not been able to keep up with the demands of modern usage and population growth. One hundred years ago, much of the traffic consisted of horse drawn wagons. Currently, it is estimated that 750 vehicles cross it every day. The maximum vehicle weight limit is 42.5 tons. However, much heavier vehicles use it. The bridge has two lanes, yet it is narrow by today’s standards and has no sidewalks. Pedestrian safety is also a concern. Visitors and locals cross it both on foot and on bikes, competing with motor traffic to visit homes, businesses, the library, and the school.
Some may recall the stories of when the current bridge was built – and why. In October of 1911, a 36-hour torrent of rain led to the largest, most damaging flood in the written history of Mancos and surrounding areas. The overflowing waters caused the Mancos river to change its channel, destroy buildings and property, and take out the Main Street bridge. A year later, the town constructed a reinforced concrete bridge to replace the wooden structure damaged by the flood. Today, this 1912 bridge is still the primary connection between the north and south sides of town, bearing the weight of hundreds of cars and heavy, modern trucks which traverse it daily.
With the continued deterioration of the bridge, Mancos cannot afford to wait any longer to replace it – the structural integrity will only get worse. It would be irresponsible for the town not to take action and address it. Thus, the Town of Mancos, under the direction of the town board, will replace it starting in April 2021. The Town has been working on the funding and permitting processes since 2015.
Due to other pressing priorities, the estimated cost of the project exceeding $1 million, and the project’s anticipated impact on those who use the bridge, it may be tempting to set the project aside. The upgrades and resulting detours will present a daily inconvenience for several months. However, by delaying this project, the safety and well-being of residents and visitors will be put at risk.
With these concerns in mind, the Mancos Board of Trustees prioritized the bridge’s replacement. For a town of 1,400 residents which relies on a relatively small amount of property and sales tax revenue to operate, the cost of replacing this bridge is of no small concern. The town is committed to utilizing all grant and low-interest loan sources available to local governments while doing so. Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation and $193,000 from the Department of Local Affairs, the town is able to offset a large portion of the costs.
The new bridge will be brought to current load and rating standards and will be widened to allow for two lanes and two sidewalks to ensure the safe crossing of pedestrians and motorists alike. It will also include a conduit for fiber optics. To address its ability to withstand the next hundred-year flood, the bridge will be ten feet longer and riverbed improvements will be made. The town will be reinforcing the area between the bridge and the Bauer Bank Building, as this structure will need strengthening as well to maintain its integrity. In keeping with Mancos’ western historical roots, the concrete sides will resemble the bricks from the historic bank building across the street and it will incorporate the iconic 1912 stamp which exists on the current bridge.
The Town of Mancos will do everything in its power to lessen the impact the construction may have on local businesses, residents, and visitors. The construction process will not block public access to businesses and we ask that you continue to patronize them. However, there will be detours, construction equipment, and noise during the week. The town will post regular construction updates for our citizens, business owners, and those who will be potentially affected. The Town will also hold a public question and answer session before construction begins to help address any questions and concerns citizens may have. Additionally, we will post a FAQ sheet on our website.
The town can’t predict when the next disaster could hit, but with the new bridge it will be better prepared to weather a large storm and flooding. Additionally, motorists and pedestrians can rest assured they will be able to more safely negotiate the north and south sides of town — perhaps even for the next 100 years.