THE CAPITAL: Solitary Dissent

Twenty years before the American Revolution, George Washington saw the need for East-West water transport up the Potomac Valley; after the war he became president of the Potomac Company, which built canals and locks to bypass falls and shoals in the Potomac River itself. The waterway eventually became the famed Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and by the mid 1800s, its mule-drawn canal boats hauled great tonnages of freight between Washington and Cumberland, Md. But over the next 100 years, the railroads forced it into disuse.

Since 1924, when floods washed out one section of the waterway, no freight at all...

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