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Pedestrian bridge remains unusable at Harpers Ferry

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020

One-third of the pedestrian bridge across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry was damaged last month in a train derailment. A timeline for repair of the footbridge at Harpers Ferry damaged in a December train derailment remains uncertain. Toni Milbourne

HARPERS FERRY — A train derailment in December that destroyed the pedestrian bridge, Goodloe E. Byron Memorial Pedestrian Walkway, linking Harpers Ferry to the C&O Canal and Maryland Heights remains closed as the early spring draws tourists to the area.

The bridge allowing pedestrian traffic to cross the Potomac River between the states is part of the Appalachian Trail that is frequented by thousands of hikers each year.

The National Park Service issued a statement this week saying that it is continuing to assess the full extent of the damage so that repairs can begin.

Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, told Harpers Ferry officials in January that park service officials were working with CSX to assess and plan repairs.

“The first thing we had to do was determine who owns what. CSX owns the rails, but the National Park Service owns the walkway,” Brandyburg told town council members.

Also uncertain is whether the repair funding will come solely from the park service or will be reimbursed by CSX.

The source of funds for repair remains unclear as is evident in a statement released by the Park Service.

“Although funding for the repairs has not yet been determined, the NPS has damage assessment and restoration authorities that allow the NPS to seek damages for injured resources,” the statement read. It is the goal for the NPS to work cooperatively with CSX to reach a speedy resolution to the unanswered questions so that the bridge can be repaired.

“Repairs will take time given the complexity and safety issues associated with its location over a river and the fact that is attached to an active railroad,” the park service statement read.

“The National Park Service is committed to finding a solution to restore access across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park,” acting National Capital Area Director Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini said. “We know the local communities and visitors to the park rely on the footbridge daily, and we are eager to have it back in place.”

When Brandyburg spoke to the Harpers Ferry Town Council in January, discussion of a potential shuttle service for visitors was raised. While there is no confirmation yet of such a service, the National Park Service is looking at viable shuttle options to transport hikers and visitors around the footbridge closure until repairs can be completed.

Visitors have been directed to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to ascertain what modes of transportation, including taxis or private shuttles, can be secured to help visitors traverse from Harpers Ferry to the Maryland side of the river and back again.

Visit www.appalachiantrail.org/transportation for more information.

The NPS will post updates about the footbridge, as they become available, online at go.nps.gov/HAFEfootbridge.