CAÑON CITY, Colo. - America's highest suspension bridge could reopen to tourists before the end of the summer.
The Royal Gorge Bridge has been closed since the Royal Gorge Fire began on June 11.
The 3,218 acre fire is 100% contained. It destroyed most of the buildings at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, and caused minor damage to the bridge.
Two weeks later, general manager Mike Bandera says the park is looking to open with a "one-way bridge only" ticket by the end of August.
The Royal Gorge has awarded a demolition contract to Alpine Cable and Construction Company of Grand Junction.
Demolition of the destroyed buildings at the park will begin immediately. Bandera says it will take six to eight weeks to get the park in good enough shape to let people through the north gate, drive their cars across the bridge, and proceed out the south gate.
Cost of demolition alone will be approximately $1,000,000. The best preliminary estimate to fully replace or rebuild the park will take in the neighborhood of $25 to $40 million dollars, Bandera said.
"It's important to us, the City of Canon City, and the Royal Gorge Region to be able to open up the bridge as soon as we can. The bridge has had close to 26 million visitors since 1929 and people are interested now more than ever in the spectacular structure," Bandera said.
With just a few buildings left standing, most of the parks structures and attractions on both sides were destroyed as the fire jumped the Royal Gorge. At last count 48 out of 52 structures there burned. The Royal Rush Skycoaster, the Plaza Theater and the mini-train "were relatively unscathed," said Bandera.
Bandera expects the park could be fully open "hopefully" in one year.