Visit the Maple Rapids Road Bridge page for more info on the Variety Iron Works, a unique company that true to its name built all sorts of metal structures. Very few bridges survive by this company making the Featherbed Lane Bridge a rare and important surviving bridge by the company. The bridge features the company's unique pedimented sway bracing (struts). The lattice portal bracing also follows the most common design used by the company.
This bridge was originally built in 1889 in a different location, on the Leesburg & Alexandria Turnpike over Goose Creek to replace a bridge destroyed by flooding. In 1932, the bridge was replaced (the new bridge was a pony truss bridge that is now demolished) and the 1889 bridge was dismantled and moved to it's current location, likely to replace an existing span. The bridge in its current location sits on stone abutments that are not something that would have been built in 1932, so they are likely from a previous bridge at this location.
This bridge was for a while at risk for demolition and replacement, and a Section 106 Review was triggered. Virginia has one of the most conservative engineering stances in the country (for unknown reasons) with one VDOT engineer going so far as to condemn literally hundreds if not thousands of projects across the country to rehabilitate bridges composed of paired eyebars (which includes most pin-connected highway truss bridges) as (and this is a quote) "Russian Roulette." On top of that, some years ago a process called metallizing (which is different from hot-dip galvanizing) was used to coat the Featherbed Lane Bridge. This process is not appropriate for use on historic bridges, and it damaged the original bridge material resulting in cracking. Thus, at the outset of the project there was a refusal to entertain any solutions (even for pedestrian use) that retained this bridge with the trusses performing a load-bearing function. However, with support from the local community to want to see this bridge and its one-lane configuration retained, a compromise has been reached. With the help of comments and ideas from HistoricBridges.org as a Section 106 Consulting Party, alternatives to add large girders to the side of the bridge, and/or widen the truss to turn it into a two-lane bridge (which would have destroyed the Variety Iron Works distinctive bracing designs) were dropped in favor of an alternative to retain the existing width of the bridge and add steel stringers under the truss to bear the loads of traffic. Thus the "feel" of the bridge will be unchanged to anyone crossing the bridge, with the alterations only apparent when the bridge is viewed from beside the roadway or from the creek. The community also supported this alternative because they wanted to retain the rural one-lane configuration of the crossing.
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