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PARK OUTHOUSE A TAJ MAHAL OF FEDERAL WASTE

Hikers who feel nature calling can find relief in a two-hole outhouse that cost the federal government more than $333,000.

The lavish trailside bathrooms feature a gabled slate roof, cedar clapboard siding, cottage-style porches and a cobblestone foundation that can withstand an earthquake.

The outhouse is without running water and isn't open in winter.

"It's a Taj Mahal," Rep. Joseph M. McDade, R-Pa., whose district includes the park, told the Philadelphia Inquirer in today's edition.

The bathrooms cost between $333,000 and $445,000 -- based on different estimates from the contractor and National Park Service officials. The agency spent $102,000 on planning and design, $81,000 for an on-site engineer and $150,000 to $262,000 for construction.

More than a dozen Park Service designers worked on the bathrooms, which opened in May 1996 in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 90 miles north of Philadelphia.

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