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Bridge plans to be re-examined

January 08, 2002

Bridge plans to be re-examined



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's highways commissioner said Monday he will reopen the process of determining where the new James Rumsey Bridge will be built.

But Fred Van Kirk is doubtful that would result in changes to the project.

Van Kirk announced his intention to reconsider the location for the new bridge following concerns from Shepherdstown-area residents about where the span is to be built.

Some local residents have expressed concern about the impact the bridge location favored by the state Division of Highways might have on the Bavarian Inn, a landmark restaurant and lodge resort on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River, Van Kirk said.

Some oppose the bridge design because it would add four curves to W.Va. 480 and Sharpsburg Pike, the two roads that are connected by the bridge, said Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson in a news release.

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Doyle wants the state to consider building the new bridge in the same location as the current span. Doyle has said he thinks the state should consider building a temporary bridge over the Potomac River while the new one is being built, said Van Kirk.

Doyle said Monday that Van Kirk's decision to re-examine the process used to select the location for the new bridge is "extremely good news."

Van Kirk, however, said he did not believe any changes would be made. The highways department has already considered building the new bridge at the site of the current span and determined that was not good plan, Van Kirk said.

Not only were highways officials wary about the cost of building both a temporary bridge and a new bridge, but there was concern about how placing the new bridge in the same location would affect the C&O Canal on the Maryland side of the river, Van Kirk said.

The current bridge has a pier that impacts on the canal, Van Kirk said.

The highway department's decision to build the new bridge upstream from the existing bridge would lessen the impact to the C&O Canal, Van Kirk said.

"I'm not optimistic. We've gone though the process (and) it was a long, drawn-out process," said Van Kirk.

Van Kirk said he was willing to hold up the project for a month or two to allow other agencies involved in the project to see what they think about the plan to build the new bridge in the same location as the old one.

If other agencies are reluctant to change their position about the location, Van Kirk said he wants progress to continue on the design highway officials have chosen. He said plans must move ahead because of the existing bridge's deteriorating condition.

"We can't afford to take too long," he said.

Other agencies that have a say in the location of the new bridge include the state highway department in Maryland, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the federal Highway Administration, said Van Kirk.

Under a construction plan unveiled by the West Virginia Division of Highways last spring, highway planners said they expected to complete the new span by 2003.

At the time, highway planners said the current bridge would continue to carry traffic while the new span was being built about 50-feet upstream.

West Virginia and Maryland are sharing the cost of the $16.7 million bridge.

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