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New U.S. 340 bridge will soon be under construction

January 08, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A plan to build a new U.S. 340 bridge in Harpers Ferry is about to become reality, state officials said on Thursday.

Construction of a new two-lane span across the Shenandoah River could begin as early as February and no later than April, said Division of Highways spokeswoman Carol Melling.

Plans to replace the deteriorating, heavily-traveled bridge have been in the works for years.

Most of the delays stem from efforts to make sure the bridge is not out of character with nearby Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said Melling.

The bridge is at the point where the Appalachian Trail crosses the river.

Highway officials said a stone facade will be used on the bridge's abutments and piers to help it blend in with its natural surroundings.

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The new span will be 120 feet downstream from the existing bridge, which will remain open until the new one is completed. Officials said work on the new span could take up to two years.

Melling would not say how much the construction might cost because doing so could influence the bidding process.

In 1993, highway officials said the cost could be up to $10 million.

The highway department is advertising for bids and should have a construction contract by the end of the month, Melling said.

Highway officials said the old bridge is too narrow for the traffic it handles and some commercial trucks must reduce their loads because of weight restrictions.

According to a 1996 traffic count, about 15,500 vehicles cross the bridge daily, up from the 13,200 counted in 1991.

The new bridge will have two 12-foot wide lanes plus shoulders and a five-foot wide sidewalk on the downstream side.

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