Work Begins to Repair AT Footbridge at Harpers Ferry; Completion Expected Late July
Repairs to the Appalachian Trail footbridge across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, are expected to be completed by the end of July, the National Park Service said on May 20.
In a statement here, Autumn Cook, public affairs specialist at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said rail line CSX has been issued a permit to repair the Goodloe E. Byron Pedestrian Walkway, which was damaged when several cars of a CSX freight train derailed Dec. 21. The AT footbridge between West Virginia and Maryland, closed since the accident, is part of the CSX rail bridge crossing the Potomac.
CSX and the NPS are working together to provide a free service for Appalachian Trail hikers and other visitors until the bridge reopens. A start date for the shuttle has not been determined.
The footbridge is the only AT crossing at the Potomac River considered safe for hikers, and is used by thousands of hikers annually. Its closure left thru-hikers wondering how they would get across the river.
The ATC initially recommended using private shuttles to cross the river, but since then has asked hikers not to use the AT because of COVID-19.
The months following the rail accident were filled with uncertainty.
“The timeline for re-opening the footbridge is unknown at this time,” Cook said in an email on Feb. 21.
An update on the park’s website on Monday, March 2, said repairs to the footbridge would take time because it is over a river and attached to a working railroad.
“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.”
Tyrone Brandyburg, National Park Service superintendent for Harpers Ferry, told the Harpers Ferry Town Council in January that CSX owns the train bridge, but the Park Service owns the walkway, according to the Shepardstown Chronicle.
Feature image courtesy of Kadi Hirth.
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