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September 20, 2019

Maryland legislators ask CSX to prioritize repairs to Cumberland bridges

Credit: Transportation Today, Chris Galford

In a Sept. 16 letter to CSX Corp. CEO James Foote, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), along with U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-MD), urged the company to repair bridges in Cumberland, which have negatively affected traffic in Maryland.

“Cumberland and CSX share a close and interconnected history that includes the city’s bridges,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, for the past two years, residents of Cumberland have endured the impacts of closed bridges impeding access to the west side of the city, preventing the efficient flow of traffic, and creating undue public safety risks. At least some of the disrepair on the Washington St. and Fayette St. bridges can be attributed to collisions with CSX trains.”

Negotiations between local officials and CSX are ongoing on the issue, but the weigh-in from federal officials represents an escalation in the case. Both a plan and a clarification of responsibilities have yet to be established. The closures also impact the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in the region, something the legislators said affects them all.

The lawmakers encouraged collaboration between the two sides and pressed CSX to urgently complete work necessary to get the bridges back in working order.

CSX responded to the senators’ letter on Sept. 18. “CSX and City officials are working together in good faith to find a long-term resolution that meets the needs of both CSX and the residents of Cumberland’s west side,” the letter said.

The Cumberland Street Bridge replacement project is ready to proceed, CSX wrote, and CSX will undertake repair work to the Fayette Street bridge which will enable the city to reopen one lane of traffic for temporary residential access until the new Cumberland Street bridge is in service.

And, “CSX and the City continue our ongoing dialogue on the future state of Washington Street,” the letter said, noting that the Washington Street bridge “is significantly more complicated due to the surrounding historic neighborhood and condition of the bridge.”