Renovation complete of 111-year old Satank Bridge

May 12, 2011

Spanning through 111 years of time and weather, Carbondale’s Satank Bridge is the only remaining Pratt-through truss wooden bridge in Colorado. The new timber compression members on the bridge are wooden, its tension members are all steel, and after a thorough renovation, the bridge stands as a refreshed stunning framework over the glistening Roaring Fork River on County Road 106 near the Rio Grande trail.

“For all of the ghosts who have crossed this bridge – all of the cattle, all of the people, all of the memories, this bridge has stood strong. Pass along it yourself, and add to those memories,” said John Martin, Garfield County Commissioner, at the ribbon cutting for the renovated bridge. Martin joined Carbondale Trustee John Hoffman in recounting the historic highlights of the bridge’s existence, even quipping that Martin was there to see the original wagon road that the bridge was built along a century ago. Preservation Specialist Gheda Gayou of the State Historical Fund also spoke at the ceremony and christened the bridge by cracking a champagne bottle on it, albeit within a plastic trash bag to catch the glass. The bottle was provided by Chris Chacos, an avid supporter of the bridge renovation.

On March 5, 1900, the Garfield County Commissioners awarded the contract to build the wagon bridge to Fred H. Bullen, of the Pueblo Bridge Company. Bullen got right to work, and just a short two months later, on May 12, 1900, the completed bridge was accepted into the county road system for a total cost of $2,345.

The image above details information regarding Satank Bridge and the project. Please click on it to see a larger image. This is a photo of a sign at the bridge’s permanent location.

Renovation of decaying bridge
More than 100 years later, Garfield County advertised a Request for Proposals (RFP) from contractors in January of 2008 for a complete renovation of the bridge. The county awarded the RFP to Gould Construction, and then turned its efforts towards application for a historical grant. In February of 2009, the county received a grant for $297,500 from the State Historical Fund – now named History Colorado. This amount was half of the engineer’s estimates for construction costs for the bridge, excluding planning, engineering, paving and other support costs that the county covered.

The bridge was moved from the river by a crane to sit just uphill on a right of way owned by Roaring Fork Transit Agency in the fall of 2010. Workers removed all of the timbers and stored them at the Garfield County Road and Bridge District 1 shop on Highway 82. The bridge now has all new timbers, made of Douglas fir from Oregon. In December 2010, the bridge was replaced at the Satank location, and the May 12, 2011 ribbon cutting celebrated 111 years of service in the community for the unique bridge.

Costs reduced by large historical grant awarded the county
“We garnered the largest single project grant ever awarded by History Colorado, formally the Colorado Historical Society, of $297,500. The grant requirements include that the preservation does not alter the aesthetic or historical appearance of the bridge,” said Assistant Garfield County Engineer Jeff Nelson, the project manager. At the ribbon cutting, he likened the work to that of a sports team, giving credit to the entire team of contributors.

Nelson estimates the total cost of the project to be $750,000 at this time, the final cost is incomplete due to the fact that the final payments have not yet been submitted. The total project cost covers engineering, construction, quality control, quality assurance, and historical documentation. The grant reduces the total cost by $297,500, leaving approximately $452,500 charged to the county.

Bridge structure in excellent condition, but timbers decayed
Challenges during the renovation included that the work was done during some extremely cold days. “We felt like we were out there working during the coldest week of the winter,” says Nelson. “The highest it got one day was 27 degrees.”

All the work was done on site in the right of way, and then it was craned it back in place minus the decking and railing. The metal was shipped off to a fabricator in Denver for inspection and a metallurgy report. “There were only two small cracks in the original iron that needed minor welding touchups on the existing structure,” said Nelson. “For structural purposes, we installed horizontal flat bars between the floor beams of the bridge with ASTM-A572 steel to replace the old iron flat bars that were there. The flat bars matched exact dimensions and appearance of the historic flat bars. Only about five percent of the metal needed replacement – the original iron weathered the storms well.”

“The steel came out a lot better than we thought, it was a surprise that the steel was in the shape it was,” Nelson said. “The diameter of the original pins was 2.5 inches, and most of the pins were still intact. But we did pull one that was only 3/8 inch and the rest was rusted away. It was within a year of failure. These pins hold all the steel tension bars and horizontal flat bars together, and they are attached with a cradle to the floor beams. Most of the pins were deteriorated due to exposure to the elements so we replaced them all.”

CTL Thompson found there was lead based paint on the bridge, and all of it was carefully removed during the renovation.

The bridge had been barricaded for the safety of pedestrians prior to the renovation; and frequently people were removing or trespassing over the barricades to traverse the dangerous and rotting timbers.

Now standing strong with all new timber, the bridge reflects a renewed character of rugged outdoor spirit. Bicyclists and pedestrians trickled across the bridge during the ribbon cutting, continuing the trend in a new century of passing over the Roaring Fork River in their travels, just as the bridge had supported so many travelers in its 111 years of sunshine, rain and snow.

Rehabilitation project members:
Jeff Nelson – Project Manager
Loris and Associates – Engineering and QA Quality Control
Gheda Gayou – History Colorado
ERO Resources Corp – cultural resources inventory
CTL Thompson
Richard Nash – Project Superintendent
PSI Crane
Gould Construction
Western Wood Products
John Kelly photo
Bob Oddo Engineering
Grand River Paving
Sopris Engineering & Surveying
Wagenman Carpentry
Roaring Fork Transit Agency