City contractors will haul a 250-foot-long pedestrian bridge into place Monday over the railroad tracks between the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and America the Beautiful Park.
The new $20 million bridge drew from the architectural themes of the recently opened museum and is expected to become a new iconic downtown structure, said Ryan Phipps, senior engineer with the city of Colorado Springs.
“It’s going to be source of civic pride,” he said.
The bridge is expected to be placed within an eight-hour window and rolled slowly onto its abutments by large self-propelled modular transporters, vehicles that provide a stable platform on numerous wheels, he said. The vehicles are expected to be the safest way to move the 300-ton steel and concrete structure, he said.
“It will be very exciting to watch,” he said.
The bridge had to be built before it was placed over the railroad tracks because construction could not disrupt freight traffic for an extended period, he said.
The structure is the latest step in the revitalization of southwest downtown, a vision that’s been decades in the making and is now coming to fruition with the improvements along Vermijo Avenue, the museum’s opening and the construction of the new downtown stadium southwest of Cimarron and Sahwatch streets.
The bridge was designed to match the Olympic museum and the architects drew inspiration from Olympic athletes themselves, designing it to be sleek, minimal and to invoke the idea of motion, said Holly Deichmann Chacon the bridge’s architect with Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The bridge’s beauty will also contribute to plans for a modern and urban downtown expected to see about $2 billion in infrastructure and commercial investment over the next 20 years, said Bob Cope, economic development manager.
“We knew it couldn’t be a typical bridge. … We knew it had to be something extraordinary,” Cope said.
So the bridge was included in the planning of the City for Champions projects, which includes the museum, and received $8 million of the $120 million in state sales tax increment financing granted to the city in 2013 for those public investments, according to the city.
It also received $200,000 through a donation, $4.6 million from the 1% sales tax collected by Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and $7.2 million through property taxes collected by the Southwest Downtown Business Improvement District. The bridge did not require funds from the city’s general sales tax revenues, which support basic city services such as police and fire protection, said city spokeswoman Kim Melchor.
Once open, the bridge is expected to help draw pedestrians to the somewhat isolated and under-used America the Beautiful Park and make it easier to hold events there by providing a direct link to parking on the east side of the bridge, Phipps said.
It is also expected to provide an easily accessible greenspace for the thousands of new residents expected to move to the many apartments, townhomes and condominiums planned for the neighborhood, he said.
“It’s going to be the front lawn for downtown residences,” he said.
The bridge is expected to open in about six months after the staircase and elevator on the west side are complete, Phipps said. The city must also install other aspects such as lighting, a handrail and metal mesh netting to keep objects off the railroad tracks.
The bridge placement can be watched live Monday at facebook.com/olympiccityusa. The bridge is expected to be placed on its abutments at around noon.