Stone Bridge report outlines fixes, solutions

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The much-anticipated “Ely’s Stone Bridge Condition Assessment” is in the hands of the county supervisors and county engineer.

     The 50-plus page report, compiled in several different sections, was released just a couple of weeks ago from the Civil Engineer Department of the University of Colorado Denver (UCD). The team was in Jones County for several days in early September 2016 to study the historic bridge that was built in 1893.

     Stone Bridge is unique in that it includes three elliptical stone arches. It was built by locals Reuben Ely, Sr. and his son Reuben Ely, Jr. at a cost of $400.

     Over the years, the bridge was tuck-pointed and repaired numerous times: 1933, 1957, 2003, 2010, and 2013. Some of the modifications included concrete collars surrounding the piers, concrete icebreakers on the upstream ends of the piers, concrete channel lining, stone replacement, concrete pavement over the bridge, and modern guardrails.

     “The Ely Stone Bridge is one of 10 remaining stone bridges in the state and the only three-arch bridge,” states the report.

     In 1979, Stone Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

     Wet Creek (Deer Creek) flows under Stone Bridge. The approximately length of the bridge is 90 feet, with an overall width of approximately 20 feet.

     After much examination and assessment of the bridge, the UCD team concludes that the overall condition of Stone Bridge is “fair.” The guardrails and pavement were seen to be in “generally good condition.” However, the condition of the stone itself “varied considerably.”

     The pavement, with “some vegetation growing out of the joints between the pavement and the stone spandrel facings,” was labeled as in good condition. It was noted by the UCD team that the pavement is higher than the stonework, especially at the northwest area of the bridge.

     “In some places the separation was 1-3 inches wide,” stated the report. “Water can enter easily through these separations and out through the piping holes on the west façade.”

     The report went on to state that water from the bridge deck also seeps through due to the vegetation in the pavement.

     In examining the east and west-facing masonry façades, it was discovered that there are “two relatively large areas of missing facing stone leaving a ‘hole’ in the facing stone.” One hole is approximately 8 feet wide and 5 feet tall. The other hole is 5.5 feet wide and 7 feet tall.

     “In general, the east-facing stone is in much better condition than the west side.” Some positive news.

     The UCD team, working collaboratively with Secondary Roads, did a load test on Stone Bridge. “Visual and audio observations…found no deflections or any sign of distress in any of the (bridge’s) arches.”

     While the structural analysis has yet to be concluded (expected in May), UCD did offer suggestions for immediate repairs, as well as final bridge design alternatives.

Remedial Repairs (regardless of permanent solution):

     • Add a 4-inch mountable curb and drainage scuppers to the bridge deck.

     • Clean debris off bridge deck.

     • Re-establish the approach shoulders to divert drainage way from the bridge.

     • Repair the broken wooden block-outs on steel guardrail posts.

     • Repair the damaged protective concrete collar on one of the piers.

Final Design Alternatives:

     • Option 1 – Properly rehabilitate the bridge to address the motor and drainage concerns and fix the holes on the western façade.

     • Option 2 – Rehabilitate the bridge, close the road to through traffic, and create a turn-around on the north side and a parking lot on the south side. A bike trail and park could be phased for future construction.

     • Option 3 – Demolish the Ely Stone Bridge and replace it with a new box culvert.

     • Option 4 – Rehabilitate the bridge with a concrete saddle (interior concrete arches that will carry the loads) and fix motor, drainage, and façade issues.

     •  Option 5: Rehabilitate the bridge, build a new bridge with a new road alignment, and create a small parking lot for Ely Stone Bridge visitors.

     “The UCD team recommends that the remedial repairs be done as soon a possible to stop further deterioration from drainage,” concluded the UCD report. “This also gives the county time to determine the permanent solution and to obtain funding and complete the design.”


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