Bridge documents likely lost in 1910 fire

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CSX wants paperwork to prove it’s responsible for deteriorating Washington Street span

Cumberland Times-News, September 17, 2012

Matthew Bieniek


CUMBERLAND — Temporary repairs on the Washington Street Bridge could begin as early as next week, although ownership documents verifying CSX’s responsibility for the bridge likely went up in smoke during a fire that destroyed City Hall in 1910, said John DiFonzo, director of engineering for the city of?Cumberland.

The bridge was closed after structural defects were discovered during an August inspection.

Back then, the railroad was the B&O and, after a series of mergers and name changes, ultimately emerged as CSX.

“The B&O appears to have assumed the responsibility of constructing the original bridges and has performed maintenance on all three bridges over time,” DiFonzo said in an email.

And there’s a good reason that may have happened.

“In the case of Washington Street, Fayette Street and Cumberland Street, the streets existed prior to the railroad and it appears that the grade of the land under tracks had to be lowered to allow the tracks to go in,” DiFonzo said.

Most of the time vehicular bridges are owned by the government responsible for the road, he said.

“If there was an agreement with the B&O it was lost in that fire. I believe that CSX would have the B&O's copy in its records,” said Di Fonzo, who thinks CSX is operating in good faith.

“I don't think CSX was trying to get out of its responsibility, but they need to have clear responsibility before they can commit to spend a large amount of money on the bridge since it carries vehicular traffic over the railroad,” DiFonzo said.

Other city officials haven’t been so understanding.

“CSX is abdicating their responsibility to a community like ours,” said Mayor Brian Grim at a recent city council meeting.

There is evidence to support B&O and CSX ownership of the bridge.

“We do have in our records, however, plans from 1948 that clearly show that the B&O planned to do major improvements to the bridge and no indication that the work was done by anyone other than the B&O,” DiFonzo said.

The repairs, which could start next week, would keep the bridge open until planning for better repairs and funding are available.

The repairs will shore up the south end of the bridge, DiFonzo said. The repair will also shore in between stringer ends on the south abutment to prevent further crushing. CSX plans to ask the city to fill in sunken asphalt once the shoring is complete, he said.

At that point the bridge could be reopened to traffic with a 4-ton weight restriction. While at the Washington Street site, the bridge repair team would also do some repairs at the Cumberland Street bridge.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .