SOMERSET-—Commissioners signed off on two agreements with CSX Transportation Tuesday that will benefit the Great Allegheny Passage.
The first contract is a construction agreement with CSX to raise a portion of the Keystone Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage at Sand Patch so its double-stack train cars can clear the structure.
“Most of the work will be done underneath the trail, so it will not impact the trail,” he said.
The project will probably be performed in the colder months, when traffic on the trail is lighter, he said.
The commissioners’ action Tuesday will allow the railroad to obtain federal clearances and put the project out to bid, he said.
The second contract is a property exchange agreement that is also part of the National Gateway initiative. This agreement involves the CSX-owned and functioning Pinkerton Tunnel and the county-owned and abandoned Western Maryland Pinkerton Tunnel, the Pinkerton bypass and the Pinkerton Horn. The Pinkerton area is about nine miles southwest of the Rockwood trail head.
The county’s closed tunnel is unsafe for use and would cost about $5 million to rehabilitate, according to county officials.
Two competing railroads built the tunnels in the 1800s. At one point only 130 feet separated the two rails.
When one tunnel closed, a 1.4-mile bypass was constructed that ran over 190 acres of private property that comprised the Pinkerton Horn. The Pinkerton Horn got its name because of the shape of the peninsula that follows the bend of the Casselman River.
Today, the bypass connects Great Allegheny Passage users between the High Bridge and the Low Bridge at Pinkerton Mountain.
The county leased land adjacent to the Pinkerton Tunnel from Mount Davis Development Corp. for no cost for use of the bypass trail. The lease expires in 2012. The corporation and another local landowner sold their property to CSX recently for a total of about $1 million.
CSX bought the Pinkerton Horn as a place to store debris from a tunnel daylighting project to accommodate double-stack containers on its rail cars. The CSX tunnel does not have enough clearance for a second layer of large containers.
To complete the project, CSX needs to excavate some of the earth over the county’s adjacent tunnel.
“Because CSX needs to maintain certain slopes in their tunnel, they have to excavate the earth back at an angle embankment,” Hollern said.
CSX agreed to turn over ownership of the Pinkerton Horn — and the bypass — to the county.
“This will ensure the continuation of the Great Allegheny Passage,” Hollern said.
Under the agreement, the railroad will pay $22,000 for an engineering assessment of the county’s tunnel. The railroad will have the right to review and approve the county’s plans for the reconstruction of the former Western Maryland Railway tunnel so it will not interfere with the railroad’s operations, Hollern said.
“This is a terrific value to the county,” he said. “We got what we needed: a permanent bypass of the Western Maryland Pinkerton Tunnel.”