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Work delay on W.Va. bridge forecast

November 14, 2000

Work delay on W.Va. bridge forecast



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Construction on a new James Rumsey Bridge over the Potomac River was expected to begin this fall, but the work may be delayed for up to two years, a state highways official said Tuesday.

The project is being delayed because it is taking longer than expected to get approvals from federal agencies that would be affected by the $14.6 million bridge, said highways spokesman Ben Hark.

One of those agencies is the U.S. Park Service, which operates the C&O Canal National Historical Park along the Potomac, said Hark.

The C&O Canal would run under the new bridge as it does under the existing bridge, said Hark. But the new bridge would be an improvement over the old one because it would not interfere with the towpath, said Hark.

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Currently, one of the piers from the old bridge is on the towpath, Hark said.

Park officials support the latest design for the bridge, Hark said.

C&O Canal officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The highways department held informational meetings about the bridge earlier this year, and the bridge generated some opposition. Some of the opposition came from owners of the Bavarian Inn and Lodge, who would have to give up a piece of vacant land for the bridge, Hark said.

In an attempt to ease concerns by the owners of the Bavarian, the highways department has moved the West Virginia approach to the bridge away from the inn so not as much land from the business would have to be taken, Hark said.

The highways department also proposes using a retaining wall on the side of the approach near the Bavarian so less land will be needed, Hark said.

Although owners of the Bavarian could not be reached Tuesday, Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer said any impact to the inn is an important issue.

The Bavarian Inn and Lodge is an important part of Shepherdstown's unique offerings, and the town wants to make sure the business is protected, Auxer said.

"It's a big deal for us," said Auxer.

Auxer declined to comment on the new design for the bridge until he views the drawings. The highways department will show the public drawings of the proposed new bridge next Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

The highways department along with the state of Maryland want to build a new bridge because the current 61-year-old span is deteriorating.

If the span continues to deteriorate while the new one is being built, the highways department could be forced to limit commercial traffic on the bridge, Hark said. In a worse-case scenario, the bridge could be closed completely if the deterioration continues at a fast pace, Hark said.

If that happens, the only way traffic could cross the Potomac River into Maryland is by using the U.S. 340 bridge in Harpers Ferry or the Interstate 81 bridge in Berkeley County, Hark said.

"We need to do something right now and get this process moving," Hark said.

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