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James Rumsey Bridge open through 2003

November 22, 2000

James Rumsey Bridge open through 2003



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A state Division of Highways official vowed Tuesday to keep the existing James Rumsey bridge open through 2003 when the new bridge is expected to be opened.

The highways department said last week that if the current bridge across the Potomac River continues to deteriorate, highway officials may be forced to limit commercial traffic on the bridge.

In a worse-case scenario, the bridge could be closed completely if deterioration of the bridge continues at a fast pace, said highways department spokesman Ben Hark.

The director of the engineering division of the highways department said Tuesday, however, the bridge will remain open.

The highways department will make any needed repairs to the bridge to make sure it remains open until 2003, when the department hopes to open the new bridge, said Jim Sothen.

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"The highways department has made a commitment that they will keep the bridge at its current posting," Sothen.

Keeping the bridge at its current posting means its weight capacity will not change, Sothen said.

Sothen made the comments during a workshop on the bridge project at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Tuesday afternoon.

The workshop was held to give nearby residents a chance to talk with highways officials about the new bridge and see drawings of the span.

Had the existing 61-year-old span been closed, Shepherdstown residents would have been faced with a long drive if they wanted to cross the Potomac River into Maryland.

The only other ways to reach Maryland would be driving to the U.S. 340 bridge in Harpers Ferry or using the Interstate 81 bridge over the Potomac River in Berkeley County.

Construction on the new bridge was expected to begin this fall, but the project is being delayed because it is taking longer than expected to get approvals on the project by federal and state agencies affected by the $14.6 million bridge project, Hark said.

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

Other agencies that must sign off on the project include the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, Maryland Historic Trust, Maryland Division of the Environment and the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, Sothen said.

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