If you can take the bridge away, it's yours free


Does Maryland have a bridge for you.

It's free. It's historic. But you have to move it.

Bridge No. 2081, better known to Annapolis residents as the Weems Creek Bridge, has carried Ridgely Avenue across the water since 1929. Now the historic span is eroding and must be replaced.

"Everybody kind of likes this bridge but they understand the thing is at the end of its life," said Glenn Vaughan, a State Highway Administration engineer. "It just needs to come out."

The highway administration issued a public notice yesterday encouraging any interested parties to load the 96-foot center portion of the bridge onto a barge and float it to a new home, perhaps along a hiking trail or in a park laced with streams and creeks.

The center portion of the 400-foot span has won the attention of historians because it swivels, instead of lifting like a draw bridge, so that tall boats can pass through. The so-called swing span bridge is classified a historic bridge by the Maryland Historical Trust, said Beth Hannold, a preservation officer with the trust.

Made out of steel, concrete and timber, the bridge is one of the last of what used to be hundreds of its kind in Maryland. Now, just 24 swing spans remain, records show.

"It's the endangered species of bridges," Mr. Vaughan said.

Whoever takes over the bridge must maintain it and preserve its "historical integrity," the public notice states. The bridge, deemed too old to sustain daily truck and car traffic, probably would be used for pedestrians and bikers, Ms. Hannold said.

The state is required under federal law to make any historic bridge available to the public for preservation purposes. But if there are no takers before Oct. 1, the bridge will go to a dump site.

And that's exactly what state highway officials fear will happen. They are doubtful anyone will leap at the chance to own a bridge.

"We've never had much success marketing these," said Bruce Grey, an assistant division chief for project planning at the highway administration.

The state is trying to unload another historic bridge on Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore, but so far there are no takers, Mr. Grey said. And MD 313, a historic bridge in Sharpstown, was demolished in the early 1980s after no one came forward to claim it, he said.

Ms. Hannold said more bridges built in the 1920s and 1930s will become available for preservation now that the state and federal government are working harder to document and maintain such structures.

"It's best if we can preserve the bridge altogether," she said. "But short of that, we look for ways to reuse and relocate them."

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