The temptation is to say that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, except that railroad bridges are involved — not tunnels.
Cumberland’s mayor and City Council are living up to the promise they made last month to keep the public informed about developments regarding the three bridges that have been closed to vehicular traffic on the West Side. (See: “City moves step closer ... ,” June 15 Times-News, Page 1A.)
The bridges that cross CSX Transportation railroad tracks at Cumberland, Fayette and Washington streets have been closed for years, and residents who live in that area have had to take circuitous routes to get home.
What little patience was left has been wearing even thinner, and the council was asked if it had any idea of what year any of the bridges might be reopened. (See: “Residents call for updates ... ,” June 5 Times-News, Page 1A.)
Mayor Ray Morriss agreed that there should be better communication and promised that it would be forthcoming.
That exchange in itself was refreshing, because we’ve seen too many irate back-and-forth broadsides between citizens and elected officials at public meetings.
This even extended to members of elected boards, as well. We remember when, a few decades ago, one threw a briefcase at another.
One elected official called what he said was an important public meeting, but wouldn’t say what it was. Nobody ever found out, because he himself didn’t show up and never told anyone why he wanted to meet.
At their June 11 meeting, the mayor and council signed a non-disclosure agreement with CSX that will allow the city to review bridge design alternatives as a prelude to negotiating the ultimate forms the bridges will take.
This agreement is a promise by the city not to reveal any of CSX’s proprietary information to the public.
Examples of that would be a company’s salary structure, employment contracts, marketing plans and other items that the company reasonably desires to keep secret. The nature of what’s covered in the city’s contract with CSX has not been revealed.
It also was disclosed that the state has selected an engineering firm to design the new bridge at Cumberland Street.
Last November, CSX relinquished any rights it may have to that bridge and transferred ownership to Cumberland, an arrangement that allows the city to seek federal funding for a new bridge.
The city and CSX had been at odds for years over who owns the three West Side bridges and is responsible for maintaining or replacing them.
Ownership of the Fayette and Washington street bridges hasn’t been officially determined, but CSX has agreed to pay for a new bridge at Fayette Street — which its trains have hit. The Washington Street bridge will involve a mix of funding, with the city taking the lead.
As we have said before, former Mayor Brian Grim and former Councilman David Caporale and other city officials made great strides in ending what had been a years-long stalemate with CSX.
That progress is continuing under the current administration, which indicates to us that a spirit of cooperation we began to notice here a few years ago is also thriving.
It involves elements of our government — cooperation between the city and Allegany County government is vastly improved — as well as the citizens, and it has been producing good results.