Controversy Surrounds Future of Historic Boyds Bridge
There are well over 600,000 bridges in the United States, with many of them barely remarkable to cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians passing over and under them.
However, plans to modify, replace, or altogether close them frequently cause controversy. Such is the case on Schaeffer Road in Boyds, where a bridge built in 1925 now has an uncertain future.
The 39-foot-long one lane bridge carries Schaeffer Road traffic over Little Seneca Creek, just west of the much newer Schaeffer Farms Trail crossing.
The existing historic bridge is in fact eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Maryland Historical Trust. (Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties: 18-47).
As this single-span bridge has aged significantly, it is in need of substantial maintenance and repairs.
Schaeffer Road through Boyds is one of Montgomery County’s designated Rustic Roads. This designation is reserved for low-volume, primarily rural, roads that “reflect the agricultural character and rural origins of the County”, according to the Montgomery County Planning Department.
The Boyds Historical Society has recently learned that the County currently plans to replace not rehabilitate this historic bridge. A replacement bridge would not only have historical implications but also significant traffic and trail safety implications.
The advocacy group Action Committee for Transit points out that replacing this bridge may in fact directly conflict with the County’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan to eliminate severe and fatal vehicle crashes.
The narrow bridge serves as a traffic calming measure, making the Rustic Road and its Trail Crossing safer and much more accommodating for bicyclists and pedestrians travelling along Schaeffer Road as well as crossing Schaeffer Road exploring the Schaeffer Farms Trails. A wider replacement bridge would only increase vehicle speeds approaching and passing the trail crossing.
Designs or plans of any proposed replacement bridges have not yet been publicly released. It remains unclear if the replacement decision is final or if there is still potential to rehabilitate this historic bridge.
The bridge is not the Schaeffer Road’s only piece of history: in 1865, Germantown resident George Atzerodt, one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators who plotted to assassinate both President Abraham Lincoln and Vice President Andrew Johnson, was arrested at a farm along Schaeffer Road. Atzerodt was given a gun and assigned by Booth and other conspirators to kill the Vice President; though Atzerodt did not follow through, he was still arrested and ultimately hanged with other conspirators.