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Cooperative effort between State Rail Authority and Division of Highways brings opportunity

CHARLESTON, WV – Thanks to a collaborative effort, new economic opportunities are on the horizon for Pocahontas County.

In 1985, Trout Run Bridge, which spans the Greenbrier River, was washed out during flooding. The bridge was never replaced.

Now the West Virginia Division of Highways, West Virginia State Rail Authority, and the owners of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad are working together to reopen the bridge and connect the rail line from Durbin to Cass and back.

“It’s the final connection that will connect Durbin and Cass back together,” said Cindy Butler, executive director of the State Rail Authority.

The Rail Authority owns the railroads in the area, contracting with the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad to run excursion trains both at Cass Scenic Railroad and along the Greenbrier River from Durbin.

Division of Highways crews decided to take on part of the construction of the bridge after initial bids for the replacement project came in well above estimates.

Todd Schoonover, DOH’s project manager for the job, said DOH crews are currently doing the foundation and earthwork for the new bridge. A contractor will later build the steel structure for the bridge, and the railroad will lay the track.

The project has unique challenges in the rugged terrain of Pocahontas County — the bridge site is six miles east of Cass and two miles west of Hosterman, with no road access.

“We have to bring every single thing in by rail car,” Schoonover said. “Including an 86,000-pound drilling machine.”

The weather in the area has also been an issue.

“We got 10 inches of snow yesterday and we managed to keep going,” he said.

Schoonover and Jamie Rossi, District 8 Engineer, said DOH divisions and districts from all over the state have lent their expertise and help for the project.

The DOH section of the project is scheduled for completion by July 2021.

“I think it’s an important project for the economy,” Schoonover said. “Tourism is a huge employer in the area.”

“It’s very beautiful through there,” said Rossi. “Reopening the line to Cass will offer a further expansion of rail excursions through a particularly scenic area of the state.”

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