New bridge to match style of mill

August 29, 1994|By Matt Ebnet | Matt Ebnet,Sun Staff Writer

Over the Middle Patuxent River, near the old grain mill off Cedar Lane, construction workers scale a partially finished bridge, delicately and ever so slowly creating ersatz history.

The foreman, on the gravel road that leads to the construction site, gestures and arches his arms as he demonstrates the project to an onlooker. Motorists gawk as they pass on Cedar Lane and drive through the hilly, wooded land in Simpsonville.

"It really will be something. It's going to be beautiful," says John Murray, the project's lead engineer.

This portion of Cedar Lane soon will be rerouted with the bridge as part of the State Highway Administration's revamping of Route 32 and nearby roadways.

The $1.6 million bridge, begun in January and located just off Route 32 and part of Cedar Lane, is being built in the same style as the neighboring mill -- known as the Simpsonville Stone Ruins -- to preserve the ambience at the site.

The old Cedar Lane bridge will remain but will be used only by pedestrians and as a service road. The new span of Cedar Lane is expected to open in April or May.

The new 282-foot-by-86-foot bridge will fit in historically -- from the materials used to the swooping arches under the bridge -- emulating the brown stones of the mill.

The bridge is in the Simpsonville Archaeological District, an area where state archaeologists last October discovered valuable insights into 18th century life, such as centuries-old trash and remnants of blacksmith and wheelwright shops and even a post office.

State Highway Administration archaeologists said the site should be treated gingerly and preserved.

"We really got into the shape of the bridge . . . and the history of the area," said Earl Freedman, deputy chief engineer of the Office of Bridge Development. "We went through a lot of trouble to construct the bridge in such a way that it would not disturb the surrounding area."

Wire fences were erected in and around the area to prevent workers from damaging any historical remnants. In fact, the design of the bridge was altered from an original plan -- in some cases very minutely to change such things as pedestrians' view of the mill.

Special gravel driveways were even created to prevent any damage to surrounding archaeological sites.

"It was really tight working in there . . . making things just right," said Mr. Murray, project engineer at the site for the State Highway Administration. "It's been very complicated."

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