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Bridge across canal reopens

May 10, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WILLIAMSPORT

Williamsport resident Kenton Lafferty said his wife, Bernice, walks the C&O Canal's towpath three times a day ? twice with her dogs and once by herself.

When her normal route across the canal temporarily shut down last fall, he said he worried about his wife crossing traffic to get to the towpath near the Cushwa Basin.

On Tuesday, Bernice got her old route back.

The C&O Canal National Historical Park reopened the 105-foot long, 127-year-old Bollman Bridge leading to Riverbottom Park along the Potomac River in Williamsport.

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"Oh, my ... I'm really happy," said Bernice Lafferty, who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony with her husband Tuesday at the bridge.

C&O Canal Park Superintendent Kevin Brandt and Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II cut the ribbon.

The C&O Canal runs along the Potomac River 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, D.C.

Repairs to the 19th-century bridge included replacing timber and steel beams, cleaning and painting the historic structure. The pedestrian bridge that runs alongside it also was replaced, according to a statement issued last year by the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

A temporary bridge was set up at Canal Street during construction, said Martin German, project engineer for the Federal Highway Administration. K.B. Contracting LLC of Fairfax Station, Va., did the work.

Brandt said the repairs cost about $900,000, which was paid for through a federal highway transportation program.

"The bridge rides real nice," German said. "I rode it first to make sure it rode good."

But while German might have been the first to ride across the repaired bridge, his trip didn't exactly count.

The first "official" trip was a C&O Canal National Historical Park Ford Escape Hybrid carrying park officials and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

"It's an exciting day for Williamsport," Brandt said.

Brandt and Williamsport Town Councilman Jeff Cline said they hope a railroad lift bridge that crosses the canal near the Bollman Bridge is next to be repaired.

Brandt believes the lift bridge was built in 1923, and was used by trains hauling coal.

The lift no longer works, but Brandt said it can be restored to its original state.

The canal operated from 1828 to 1924, and primarily was used to transport coal from Western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, D.C., according to the C&O Canal National Historic Park's Web site. Mules pulled boats along the canal.

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