DURANGO — The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has received about $2 million to help pay for the replacement of a bridge over the Animas River, south of Silverton.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, which was designed to fund projects that improve reliability and efficiency of intercity passenger trains, the Durango Herald reported.
Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner explained the importance of the D&SNG in a joint letter of support to award the grant, citing the company’s $200 million impact on the local economy and 270,000 travelers last year.
“A vital part of this connection is a 242-foot bridge that crosses the Animas River that is currently in a state of overstress and in need of replacement,” the letter said.
Requests for comment from Bennet’s Democratic office and Gardner’s Republican office were not returned.
D&SNG General Manager Jeff Johnson said the wooden bridge is functional and passes biannual inspections for safety, but was likely constructed in the 1910s or 1920s and will need to be replaced.
Johnson said the grant is not expected to cover the entire cost, which is still being determined.
“We were just notified about the grant, and now we can start (planning) how we want to do it,” he said.
The company also recently inspected the Elk Creek bridge and adjacent track further south of Silverton, which showed that the damage is not as extensive as previously thought.
In June, a massive rainstorm caused a logjam at the bridge, which then caused about 40 feet (12 meters) of track to wash out, cutting off trains from Silverton, company officials said. It was originally estimated that the bridge could take up to 16 weeks to repair, but inspections said it did not need to be replaced.
“Because the integrity of the bridge was good, that was a huge step in saving time and money on this project,” Johnson said, adding that most of the work can now be focused on repairing the washed-out track instead of replacing the bridge.
That work is expected to be completed by the end of fall.
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