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Who Owns the Gunston Cove Road Bridge?

Ownership and history collide on a one-lane bridge.

The century-old footings that support the old, one-lane Route 600 Gunston Cove Road bridge have washed out or deteriorated, but confusion over ownership — and a potential historic designation — is delaying any repairs or demolition. 

The bridge, which crosses two railroad lines, closed in 2004, and Fairfax County authorities have recommended demolition. CSX Corporation and the Virginia Department of Transportation both have some history with the bridge. 

Virginia State Delegate Dave Albo described the situation well on his blog

"Gunston Cove Bridge was washed out during Hurricane Isabel. I personally inspected the bridge and found the footers to be sitting on an eroded hill. The guard rails were so weak that I could push them over with my hand. There is no doubt that the bridge needed to be closed. Following that, VDOT looked at repairing it.

"What VDOT found was that the bridge is not owned by the state. It is owned by CSX railroad as part of a land/rail road purchase decades ago. Of course, CSX has no desire to spend the money to fix it. So if it is to be fixed, it would have to be transferred to VDOT. And VDOT does not want to take responsibility for it without knowing what they are getting into." 

It would cost about $50,000 to tear the bridge down, versus $2.5 million to renovate it, and the commonwealth doesn't have the money to improve the bridge.

"CSX has agreed to tear the bridge down, but does not claim ownership," said Seyed A. Nabavi, a transportation planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. 

While neither CSX or VDOT claim ownership, VDOT has on occasion performed maintenance on the bridge. In 1995, a tractor-trailer crash sent a load of air conditioners crashing into the bridge, and it was repaired by VDOT, according to the Washington Post

"The bridge was constructed by Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, which was absorbed by Norfolk & Western, which was then absorbed by CSX. Now, no one can find the records of who owns it," Clifton said. 

The LHS is trying to have the bridge listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites. "What happens with that listing is that it does not protect the bridge, but whoever demolishes it must do thorough documentation including photographs and drawings so that the information on the bridge is preserved," said Clifton.

Representatives for VDOT and CSX did not return calls for comment. 

Sally Spangler July 25, 2012 at 09:29 PM
CSX railroad I suspect took over the ownership after the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad folded. The bridge is very old. It is all timber. CSX doesn't want to do anything. I suppose they think that since the new road which services the new market/store setup and connects with the base of the old bridge that the bridge doesn't need their assistance. There was another bridge, which was deliberately burned down - Pohick Road crossing the tracks and US 95. I guess the VDOT took over that job and put in the bridge in a new place CSX didn't have do do anything. So - who goes first - CSX or VDOT? The State of Virginia? Good question. The BRAC mess is going to need two changes to overpasses of the CSX over the Old Colchester Road. The same type of construction that they did to cross Lorton Road! CSX is not going to do anything about widening and raising either of the two places - Colchester and the 13 foot high overpass over US1 to get to the junction of US1 and US 95.
Alvaro Bustillos July 26, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I definitely do not think the state should be spending that kind of money to renovate the bridge. Of CSX owns it they should do whatever they want with it. Our tax payer dollars should not be wasted on a useless bridge that no one cares enough about to fix. If there was incentive enough then it would have been fixed already. So obviously there is a lack of incentive to do anything to it.
Sally Spangler July 26, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Your first sentence said the whole thing - The bridge would really have to be re-built. That is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The road was moved, taking care of the traffic using the bridge. "Here endeth the lesson!"
Ls July 30, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Get the money from Denese Slaey...she already defrauded the US tax payer by stealing 6.5 million from tax payers. she lives in Gunston Cove in Lorton.

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