Built in the 1820s, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal once served as an important transportation link for commerce in the early decades of the nation. Nearly 200 years later, the canal is primarily a destination for outdoor enthusiasts who hike and bike along the landmark's 185 mile towpath, which is the path once used by beasts of burden to pull barges and other vessels along the canal. A critical section of the towpath near Hagerstown, Maryland has crumbled over the years, especially after significant floods between 1972 and 1996. The resulting damage has forced visitors to use a five mile detour that takes them outside the boundaries of the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Now, thanks in large measure to the federal stimulus program, funding is in place to repair the 1.5 mile section of the towpath which was supported, originally, by a stone wall. Cianbro's Mid-Atlantic team has won the contract to perform the work, coming in as the low-bidder at $17.2 million. The job will entail a wide range of improvements, including tree removal, jet grouting, drilled pier installation, caisson drilling, and placement of precast deck and face panels. Special attention will be given to matching new stonework with the historical masonry. An added challenge is that a large portion of the work must take place from barges anchored offshore on the Potomac River.
"The job will put about 50 team members to work for roughly two years," says MAR Estimating Manager Jerry Humphrey. Once the renovations are completed, the entire length of the historic C&O Canal will be accessible to the nation's citizens.