Aging structure was closed in 2017

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AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission heard an update about the historic steel truss bridge spanning the Animas River in Cedar Hill during its Tuesday meeting in Aztec.

The bridge is currently closed to all traffic and will remain closed until further notice.

The county likely will add the bridge to its infrastructure capital improvement plan, which serves as a list of priority projects and helps the county when it seeks funding.

Where is the Animas River truss bridge located in Cedar Hill?

The bridge joins County Road 2380 and County Road 2345 in Cedar Hill and spans the Animas River.

Why is it closed?

The bridge has been used since the early 1900s to transport vehicles across the river. In the 1990s, vehicle traffic ceased on the bridge, and it became primarily used for pedestrian traffic. San Juan County closed the bridge in 2017 due to structural concerns.

What is proposed for the bridge?

The county hopes to rehabilitate the bridge and reopen it to pedestrian traffic. This would include replacing the abutments on both sides of the river.

While the abutments both need to be replaced, Public Works Director Fran Fillerup said the steel itself is in good condition and has very little rust. He attributed that to the dry climate.

The bridge deck also will need to be replaced.

There have been three studies done on the bridge. The most recent study was conducted by Bach Steel out of Michigan, a company that specializes in examining steel bridges. Based on those studies, the county estimates it will cost between $250,000 and $300,000 to rehabilitate the bridge, according to Fillerup. Once rehabilitated, it would be reopened for pedestrian traffic.

County Commissioner Jack Fortner suggested asking state Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, to include funding for the rehabilitation project in their capital outlay requests during the next legislative session. Bandy is up for re-election this year, and his Democratic Party opponent, MP Schildmeyer of Bloomfield, attended the meeting Tuesday.

The bridge will remained closed until the rehabilitation is complete.

Who owns the bridge?

One side of the bridge is located on private property, and the property owners have blocked access. In December, the property owner told the County Commission she is concerned about partying that occurs at the bridge.

The county believes it owns right of way access that would allow it to reopen the bridge to pedestrian traffic.

“In 1908, A.U. Graves sold to San Juan County a bridge constructed at this location,” Fillerup said.

That bridge washed out in 1911. The county replaced it with the help of the Cedar Hill Bridge Company in 1913 and 1914, Fillerup said. The current bridge was likely ordered from a Montgomery Ward catalog. Fillerup said the right of way to access the bridge was conveyed to the county when Graves sold the county the bridge.

“Does the county own the bridge and the abutments it rests on? Yes, it does,” Fillerup said. “Does it have access to it? Yes.”

Why is the bridge important?

Several residents of Cedar Hill have asked the county to preserve and reopen the bridge. They have cited the historical nature of the bridge as one reason to keep it open. Residents also say it provides one of the only connections between the northern section of the Cedar Hill area and the southern section.

Fortner described the bridge as a “very important part of that area, county and history.”

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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