An unused streetcar bridge in Glover-Archbold Park in danger of collapse may be demolished by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, raising concerns from local historical preservation advocates.

The streetcar line that the bridge supports used to service an amusement park in the area until Washington, D.C.’s streetcar service was halted in the 1960s. Since then, the bridge has fallen into disrepair; WMATA, which opens the bridge, worries it may soon collapse, endangering pedestrians who use the footpath below.

Concern over the soundness of the bridge prompted inspections that found “several structural deficiencies,” leading WMATA to plan for demolition, according to WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly.

The bridge, called the Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle, is one of just two bridges left standing from the old trolley line that linked the Georgetown neighborhood and Glen Echo, Md., according to the D.C. Preservation League website. The organization describes the structure as “one of the few remaining early transportation bridges in the city.”

The D.C. Preservation League, a group that advocates for the maintenance and restoration of historical sites in the District, has voiced concerns over the expected demolition. D.C. Preservation League Executive Director Rebecca Miller said in an interview with The Hoya that the bridge’s condition amounts to “demolition by neglect,” after WMATA made little effort to stabilize the bridge since acquiring it in the 1990s.

DC PRESERVATION LEAGUE
A historic bridge once used to carry streetcars traveling between Georgetown and the Maryland suburbs is set to be demolished.

The District Department of Transportation has offered to conduct a study on possible methods to stabilize the trestle without destroying it. However, WMATA filed an application for demolition without waiting for the results of the study.

“DDOT has offered to do a study on keeping the trestle and [assessing] its current condition, and WMATA’s response to that was to file this application for demolition,” Miller said in an April 5 WTOP article. “So, we don’t see that as working in good faith with the other parties involved.”

However, Ly said WMATA has made efforts in the past to save the bridge by transferring the property, but no other group has taken it on.

“Over the past several years, WMATA has explored many options to transfer the bridge to other parties, without success,” Ly wrote in an email to The Hoya.

WMATA has other more pressing budgetary concerns and has done what it can to try to save the bridge, according to Ly; now it is up to other groups or agencies to save the bridge if they choose.

“WMATA’s highest priority is repairing its own system that is facing a $15 billion backlog of construction and maintenance needs as a result of deferred maintenance,” Ly wrote. “Repairing the WMATA system is critical to ensure safety for those who ride us every day.”

WMATA may face legal challenge regarding the expedited push for demolition, according to Miller.

“Also, under the [D.C. Historic] Preservation Act, there is a requirement to show alternatives to demolition, and obviously WMATA has not looked at that, given that DDOT hasn’t had the opportunity to do their study yet,” Miller said in the April 5 WTOP article.

The bridge sits within the Glover-Archbold Park Historic Area, making the Preservation Act applicable, according to Miller. The park contains an expansive trail system, into which preservation advocates say the trestle could be incorporated as an alternative to simply tearing it down.

“We recognize that WMATA has other priorities with regard to the rail system,” Miller said in an interview with The Hoya. “However, they do have this piece of infrastructure that could be incorporated and made into a very interesting piece of history for the city.”

While WMATA has filed for a permit for the demolition, that permit has not yet been granted. Despite the filing, DDOT still plans to carry out the study on the feasibility of alternatives.

A public hearing on the issue with the Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled for May 24.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*