Sligo Creek Bridge
Carol Highsmith / Library of Congress
BH Photo #353511
The last time workers came to remake the bridge that carries Takoma Park’s main street across Sligo Creek, safety was not exactly Job One. On a winter’s day in 1932, the crew dynamited a few vital supports, and the bridge promptly collapsed with six workers standing on the span.
Three ran fast enough to make it to safety; three fell 75 feet to their deaths. One, according to a local newspaper account, was crushed so badly that his widow could identify him only by the keys in his pocket.
Now, the workers are back to redo the bridge. They are being more careful, and not just because of eight decades of workplace safety progress. The graceful arched structure that rose after the accident has achieved local landmark status, a picturesque traffic artery above and a keystone feature of the scenic parkland below.
The Maryland State Highway Administration has launched $12 million worth of infrastructure artisanship to preserve the Carroll Avenue bridge. The agency is spending extra money and time rebuilding the span as it is rather than knocking it down (presumably more carefully this time) and swapping it for the kind of faster and cheaper prefabricated replacement currently in vogue with budget-minded civil engineers. The bridge was rebuilt in 1932 and is getting a $12 million makeover. (Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)
“This one is a little different,” said Maurice Agostino, the state engineer in charge of designing the restoration. “It’s really a character-defining element for the surrounding area. We think it’s important to maintain that character.”
The structure is in for a year of bridge beautification. Its three soaring sets of concrete arches are being restored in place. The upper deck and vertical columns that hold it aloft will be demolished, but crews will custom build molds of laser-carved Styrofoam to re-create its copings, lips and cornices. The ornate side balustrades will be upgraded to a crash-tested design close in appearance to the 1932 version. The new sidewalks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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