A bridge that has spanned Chase Creek for more than a century is being replaced with a modern structure. The work will be a combined effort of the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Town of Clifton.
The Clifton Town Council voted at its Feb. 11 regular monthly meeting to enter into a partnership with ADOT to replace the structure on Frisco Avenue. The total cost will be $1,600,000. The town’s share of the cost will be an estimated $60,000.
An engineering study by Jacobs Engineering on behalf of ADOT determined that the bridge is structurally deficient. At present there is a sign on the bridge posting the weight limit of vehicles at 10 tons. It supports large recreational vehicles and loaded dump trucks.
Work on the bridge project may begin as early as this spring, said Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez. That will involve soliciting construction bids.
Construction will hopefully begin by August, Perez said. Construction will involve creating a traffic detour to gain access to and from North Clifton. Perez said the town is involved in negotiations with Freeport McMoran Inc. to create the detour on FMI property.
The two-lane bridge on Frisco Avenue is located at the confluence of Chase Creek and the San Francisco River. It was built in 1901. Railings on the bridge and an adjacent walkway date from the early 1900s. Greenlee County’s official historian, the late Al Fernandez, once said each railing and joint have round knob-like endings that were common in that time period.
The bridge surface was originally covered by thick wooden planks, Fernandez said. Over the years, perhaps in the 1940s, the bridge was surfaced with asphalt. Today it is covered with asphalt that is badly cracked and deteriorating.
Frisco Avenue was in the past a heavily used roadway. It provided access to the then-thriving residential areas of North Clifton and Okie Town. That came to an abrupt halt in the wake of the devastating Oct. 1,1983 flood. It badly damaged or destroyed most of the homes in both locations.
All remaining structures in the flood plain were leveled and removed as part of an Army Corps of Engineers flood control project.
Frisco Avenue leads to the North Clifton RV Park that was established as part of the project. User fees are charged and become income for the town to pay for the park’s upkeep. The road also leads to the Polly Rosenbaum Bridge. From there it becomes a dirt road that runs upriver and provides access to ranches and an undeveloped recreation area where locals, go fishing, have picnics and swim in the river.
Fernandez once said the walkway adjacent to the bridge was made of railroad ties that were originally part of a small railroad built in the early 1900s by Clifton entrepreneur Dell Potter. The rails only extended a mile or two at most.
The ties are now badly deteriorated; whether removal or replacement of the walkway will occur is unknown.