Bridge repair still stuck, bikeways grant awarded, other funding coming in

by Geoff Fox

A project by the National Park Service to repair and replace the bridge over the C&O Canal in Hancock still has yet to start.

The project was originally scheduled to start on September 22, material delays have held up work.

Town Manager Joe Gilbert said he’s been “pestering” the NPS about the project and still has yet to hear from the contractor.

Gilbert said he was told the delay comes from back order on the pressurized wood for the bridge.

That pushes the work back another four to six weeks until the wood comes in.

The bridge is being prefabricated off-site and will be brought to Hancock on a flatbed truck.

The current bridge would then be lifted out via a crane and then replacing it with the new bridge.

“But still no one from the contractor has contacted the town for anything,” Gilbert said. A NPS contact had given him the current details about the bridge.

Bikeways grant

The Town of Hancock was awarded a grant from the State of Maryland via the Kim Lamphier Bikeways Network Program as part of $3.78 million grant for fiscal year 2021.

Hancock is receiving $60,440 for the Hancock Bikeways Signage and Promotion Project, which will design and construct on-road bike lanes, improve safety and attract visitors from the Western Maryland Rail Trail.

The state grants have a process and this particular one requires the town review and resubmit a project plan to review to the state after it has been awarded.

The grant is awarded conditionally based on those recommendations.

Amy Gillespie of Hancock Works! said some of the items involved with the grant have already been discussed among town officials.

She also noted there would be some tie-in with the Hancock Police as both Police Chief Jim Robison and Officer Shaw Faith are both certified to patrol by bicycle.

There is also a bike safety component and training in the grant as well and, with state approval, Gillespie’s plan is to involve Robison in that process.

Gillespie said she is currently envisioning an online training program or maybe a QR code link on the canal.

“We’re working on that now,” she said. “It’s not been finalized and [we] just sent the project plan over.”

The town plan timeline was sent last week to the state for review and the state has up to 120 days to approve and execute the grant agreement.

“MDOT will be coming out to review the proposal as it stands and let us know when we can move into the feasibility study phase,” Gillespie said in an email. “We cannot proceed without their approval and guidance.”

There is also a public comment phase so the community can be aware of the plan and contribute, she added

COVID, plant funding

There was also some more money coming in through funding, Gillespie told town officials.

Main Street Hancock received $5,000 in COVID funding, she said.

She didn’t go into detail as to what the money would be used for, only that she and Gilbert would have to discuss it.

Gillespie also said there was $663 to do planting around town as a throw-in grant to assist those who take care of the flowerbeds in town. The grant was tied to butterflies and bees.

“We’ve got a little bit of funding to do some planting and to sprucing up Main Street,” she said.