- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Maggie McPherson
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
After moving to Colorado and working in the construction industry, Doug Jatcko decided he wanted to run his own company. In 1983, Jatcko purchased a concrete company and a few years later began constructing bridges. Located in Boulder, Colorado, Transpan Bridges specializes in building prefabricated bridges for commercial and municipal clients.
Jatcko began his professional career as a high school English teacher. “I came out to Colorado one summer with a friend to build a cabin and decided that I wanted to change careers and go into construction,” recalls Jatcko. “I really liked the hands-on approach involved in construction and it just developed from there.” Jatcko possesses the entrepreneurship gene as he hails from a family of independent business owners.
After gaining experience in the field working on trails, bikeways and automobile traffic bridges, Jatcko purchased the company from a widow who had been running the company. “I immediately picked up on the prefab water tank aspect of the business and then began to develop prefabricated bridge products,” says Jatcko.
Transpan Bridges initially began working on mountain trails and golf courses constructing pedestrian bridges. This eventually morphed into working on county road bridges which incorporated Jatcko’s concrete experience. “We do work in steel and wood as well,” Jatcko explains. “We’ve done an awful lot of very artful projects as well as the plain concrete bridges with W-beam guardrails that you see all over the country, which is what we’re primarily focused on now.”
In summer 2014, the small town of Montezuma, Colorado, called upon Transpan Bridges after the community became isolated by a flood that created a bridge failure. “We were made aware of the bridge failure at the end of June and signed a contract immediately after the Fourth of July,” says Jatcko. Time was of the essence due to the fact that the town was traversing via a quarter-mile one way trail through the woods which would not work once winter arrived.
Summit County, where Montezuma is located, pooled its resources with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which was performing a mine reclamation project in the area to bring in Transpan Bridges to remedy the problem. “We were able to open the bridge by Sept. 5, and that included all the engineering and construction required,” says Jatcko. This proved to be a testament to the advantages of the prefabrication approach to bridge construction. “It showed how building off-site can be much more efficient than building on-site, especially when there is a dangerous and difficult situation at the location.”
Jatcko considers this project a personal favorite due to his company’s ability to help out the town of Montezuma in a time of crisis. “The entire county was relieved to see the town reconnected,” says Jatcko. “The school children were able to travel safely on a conventional school bus and the EPA mine reclamation project was also able to progress from the bridge being completed so quickly.”
It was critical to the town of Montezuma that the EPA project continued. Due to unsafe mining techniques practiced decades earlier, the mine was leaking arsenic into local water supplies. “None of those folks were in immediate danger but it did exceed safeguard levels for arsenic content in water,” Jatcko explains. “All of those reasons made it imperative that we work quickly. The traditional way of building bridges from concept through completion, never takes less than a year and we were able to do it in less than three months.”
In a timeframe of less than two years, Transpan Bridges provided solutions to many emergency situations. Due to flooding throughout the state, the company would build seven bridges in a matter of 15 months. “Three of those bridges provided access to homes,” says Jatcko.
While the company started out providing mostly pedestrian bridges to golf courses and walking trails, Jatcko says the demand for automotive traffic bridges has been the most prominent category. “In the ’90s there was an average of one golf course opening per week throughout the country,” says Jatcko. “Since the recession, there has been an average of one golf course closing every week. So things change and we’re able to adapt through our diversification.”
The immediate plans of Transpan Bridges include a large investment in marketing the company and its approach to prefab bridge construction. Jatcko is aiming to create more awareness of the efficiency provided by off-site prefabrication. “We’re hoping to meet with and convince more government and county officials at every level about the advantages of hiring an actual bridge-building company as opposed to a general contractor,” says Jatcko. “A construction company may have just come off completing a building and before that a parking structure. They might have to rearrange their company in order to build a bridge and wouldn’t have as much expertise as a dedicated bridge-building firm like has.”
Transpan Bridges will continue to inform the public, private and commercial sectors of its advantages through the work it performs and satisfied clients.
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