(July 17, 2014) – This fall, bicyclists and hikers will have a safer way to access the MD 51 (Oldtown Road) Bridge over the Potomac River from the C&O Canal Towpath near the PawPaw Tunnel in Western Maryland. The State Highway Administration (SHA) partnered with the National Park Service to design a new shared-use path along the south side of MD 51, between the towpath trailhead and the Potomac River Bridge.

“A popular side trip for hikers and bicyclists on the towpath has been to leave the trail and follow MD 51 about half a mile to the bridge to stop in town in Paw Paw, W.Va., or use the river access there, but as a winding, two-lane road without shoulders, MD 51 was not particularly friendly to bicylists or pedestrians,” said SHA District Engineer Anthony Crawford. “We are pleased to partner with the Park Service to design a safe, attractive and environmentally-friendly solution.”

SHA is constructing the 1,700 foot-long, 10-foot-wide shared-use path as part of a resurfacing project on MD 51. The path will be separated from the roadway with a concrete barrier topped with fencing. Weather permitting, it will be complete in October.
Photo caption: Bicyclists ride toward Paw Paw, W.Va., on MD 51 (Oldtown Road) July 16 as crews work on a resurfacing and shared-use-path construction project. The road is reduced to a single lane with a flagging operation due to construction. When the project is complete, cyclists and pedestrians will have a shared-use path away from traffic.
The project is near the Paw Paw Tunnel, a 3,118-foot tunnel built in the 1800s to carry the C&O Canal through a mountain, bypassing six miles of river bends. The path is being built on National Park Service land and will be maintained by the park service.

The hiker-biker path is being constructed using pervious pavement, an environmentally-friendly alternative that allows water to soak through the pavement rather than run off into streams and rivers.  It’s a part of an overall system that allows water to seep through different layers of stone and then ultimately into the soil. The system is built to withstand extremely heavy rain storms. Pervious pavement is ideally suited for shared use paths and park and ride locations and is maintained using a vacuum truck to remove debris that can clog the porous material.

SHA’s $3.2 million project along MD 51 also includes resurfacing and drainage improvements along three miles of MD 51, from west of Comerford Drive to the Potomac River Bridge. The cost of the bike lane is approximately $350,000. Work on the resurfacing project began in late April. Throughout construction, motorists may encounter lane closures with flagging on MD 51 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. SHA’s contractor for the project is IA Construction Corporation of Franklin, Pa.

While SHA and its partners work hard to maintain safe traffic mobility in work zones, each driver needs to actively modify his or her driving style to help prevent crashes. Stay alert – look for reduced speed limits, narrow driving lanes and highway workers. Slow down and don't follow too closely. Safer Driving. Safer Work Zones. For everyone!

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