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For Immediate Release  • March 18, 2014
Staff Contact: Rigo Leal, Public Information Officer, 303-651-8840; Barb Halpin, Boulder County Public Information Officer, 303-441-1622

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Planning Continues on Sunset St. Bridge Replacement Project


March 18, 2014 - The City of Longmont and Boulder County are joining forces to plan the replacement of the Sunset Street Bridge that was damaged during the September 2013 flood.

The bridge, located on Sunset St. between 3rd Avenue and Boston Avenue in Longmont, is owned by Boulder County but due to its location serves primarily city residents and businesses as an important north-south connection over the St. Vrain Creek.

The two government agencies have agreed to work together on this project through an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), signed in October 2013. The agreement stipulates that Boulder County will take the lead on funding the project and the City of Longmont will manage the design and construction.

Sunset Street is classified as a federal-aid roadway, meaning that funding for flood repairs will come from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and not from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Boulder County is working with the FHWA to secure federal “Emergency Relief” funds for the bridge replacement, which would fund up to 82% of the estimated $2 to $3 million replacement cost. Boulder County and the City of Longmont have agreed to share the cost of any funds not provided by FHWA.

“The City and the County are very intertwined at this location,” says Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle, “and we welcome this partnership to replace the washed out structure with a more complete facility that will serve cars, bikes and pedestrians for many decades to come.” 

This section of Sunset Street remains in the unincorporated County along with several of the properties on the corridor. But the city owns many of the properties north of the bridge along with the St. Vrain Greenway bike trail that runs underneath the bridge.

City and County leaders determined that temporary repairs to make the bridge passable are impractical for two reasons. First, temporary repairs could not guarantee safe passage over the bridge and second, temporary repairs would cost approximately $350,000. In the interest of public safety and fiscal responsibility, both agencies agreed that resources should be focused on a permanent solution.

“In our estimation, the bridge is damaged beyond repair,” Longmont Public Works Director, Dale Rademacher, said. “It does not make sense to apply a temporary fix. The bridge has to be torn out and replaced.”

According to Boulder County Planner Tim Swope, the normal timeframe for designing and constructing a bridge like this would normally take three to four years. “We are condensing that timeframe by half,” he said. “We’re hoping to have a new bridge up and running sometime in 2015.”

The Sunset Street Bridge was built in 1958 and was already at the end of its expected life span. Discussions were under way for bridge replacement before the flood hit Longmont last year. The flood damage has expedited those discussions.

Before a new bridge can be built, various regulatory conditions must be met.

“Many people are understandably concerned about the lack of repair activity on the bridge,” Longmont City Manager, Harold Dominguez, said, “but there are many moving parts that have to be finalized before we can begin design and construction.” The County and City are working closely together to follow all federal regulations and ensure funding for the project. As necessary funding is secured, work can begin.

“The discussions with FHWA are on-going” says Swope, “FHWA wants to ensure that the federal dollars are well spent and we want to make sure that the finished product is worth the wait.”

In addition to funding, another complicating factor is that the new bridge needs to be designed to withstand the 100-year flood flow. This requires building a bridge that is significantly larger than the old one to mitigate flood impacts and prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring in the future. Beyond new design and engineering work, the improved bridge will also require private property land acquisition before construction can begin.

“We ask the public for patience as we complete this multi-phased process,” Dominguez added. “Smart planning and investment now will positively serve the community for decades to come.”

In addition to withstanding higher flow volumes, the improved Sunset Street Bridge will also provide greater vehicle capacity as well as the addition of bicycle lanes and sidewalks.