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August 17, 2022

City taking ownership of Fayette Street bridge

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Greg Larry

City officials voted Tuesday to take ownership of the bridge at Fayette Street clearing another hurdle for construction of a new bridge at the site.

The Fayette Street bridge, which spans CSX Transportation railroad tracks, was closed in June of 2018 after sustaining considerable damage from a train strike. In attempts to have the bridge rebuilt, a dispute between the city of Cumberland and CSX emerged over ownership of the span. CSX denied owning the bridge, placing the onus on the city to resolve the matter.

In order to pursue federal funding to build a new bridge, Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize signing of a quitclaim deed to accept ownership, thereby relinquishing CSX of any equity rights they may have historically had.

“This is an acknowledgment of ownership of the Fayette Street bridge so that we can start working our way through the federal process to build a new bridge at Fayette Street,” said Morriss.

Morriss said the deed transfer was done for $1.

Following the damage to the bridge in 2018, CSX did some repairs to the span which permitted the two-lane bridge to be opened in January of 2020 for one lane of traffic.

“The next step is to work with the fed to be able to get the money,” said Morriss. The estimated cost to replace the two-lane bridge is $5 million, according to city officials.

Morriss said CSX may contribute a small portion to the cost, but federal grant money will likely fund the largest portion.

“It is part of Rep. (David) Trone’s office who has it in a future bill for the Congress to be able to fully fund that bridge so it can be an earmark (in a bill) going forward,” said Morriss.

The mayor and council also voted to authorize a construction agreement with CSX outlining the terms for the removal of the bridge and replacement with a new span.

According to Morriss, the span will be built with 22-foot clearance allowing double stack trains to pass beneath. “The new bridge will meet all the federal guidelines,” said Morriss.

The city has also taken ownership of two properties beside the bridge so they can be removed to allow construction of the new bridge.

The Fayette Street bridge is one of three bridges on the city’s West Side which are currently closed. The Cumberland Street bridge has been closed since it failed a safety inspection in November of 2017.

The Washington Street bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in April 2016 following an inspection which found deficiencies. CSX made basic repairs to the Washington Street 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 of 2017 and again in June, 2018. The bridge was closed after the August, 2017 train strike and has been closed ever since.