County to make Washington Street bridge repair a priority

·3 min read

Jun. 11—CUMBERLAND — Jake Shade, Allegany County Commission president, announced Thursday that the county intends to make securing funding for a replacement span for the Washington Street bridge a top priority with the state.

The vote to prioritize the transportation project was conducted at Thursday's meeting of the commissioners at the County Office Complex on Kelly Road.

The Washington Street bridge, which spans railroad tracks, has been closed for several years, frustrating residents as well as motorists who travel the West Side.

Its problems began in April 2016 when the two-lane bridge was reduced to one lane after it was found to have structural deficiencies following an inspection. CSX Transportation made basic repairs to the bridge and it was reopened to one-lane traffic in October of that year.

However, the bridge suffered back-to-back train strikes in August 2017 and again in June 2018. The bridge has remained shuttered since it was closed to all vehicular traffic due to the damage from the 2017 train strike.

CSX, which has been reluctant to claim ownership of the bridge, has also shown little interest in paying for construction of a new bridge at the site that meets modern standards.

County officials are working on two fronts to resolve the issue. In April, commissioners voted unanimously to permit county attorney Lee Beeman to file an official complaint against CSX with the National Surface Transportation Board. County officials are awaiting a date for the case to be heard.

County officials are asked periodically to compile a list of transportation projects to submit to the Maryland Department of Transportation for funding consideration. The county compiled a list of 19 projects and had initially placed the Washington Street bridge at number 15 on the the list.

"The government is here to fix problems," said Shade. "The one on this whole list, there are 19 here, that doesn't seem to have a solution is the Washington Street bridge. So I think we need to make that number one.

"You know the bridge was struck by a train in 2017 and again in 2018 and (CSX) has refused to assist in any way to get that fixed.

"We are going to have a hearing in front of the Surface Transportation Board. I look forward to a successful outcome to that case and I think we need to have an engineered bridge ready to go on day one after we are successful with that endeavor."

Shade asked for a motion to move the bridge up to number one. "We need to let MDOT know that this is still a priority and safety issue for the people of Western Maryland," he said.

The motion was made and the commission voted unanimously to make the move.

Other projects on the county's list to submit to MDOT include funding for an engineering study for building a multi-lane highway at U.S. Route 220 from south of Cresaptown to the West Virginia line. This project also includes improvement for U.S. 220 at Warrior Drive to relieve congestion. Also along U.S. 220 is drainage improvement work for the Bowling Green Area.

Projects in Cumberland include the installation of Baltimore Street on the downtown mall, Baltimore Street bridge repair, Cumberland Street bridge rebuild, John J. McMullen Bridge repairs, and Greene Street rehabilitation and new streetscape.

In Frostbrug, projects include a roundabout at Braddock Road and Center Street, and the addition of a tram from the Frostburg Depot and Great Allegheny Passage to Main Street.

Greg Larry is a reporter at Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.