Georgetown University students on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) that represents the university are collaborating with local advocates and other Washington, D.C. elected officials to preserve Glover Archbold Park’s historic Foundry Branch Trestle Bridge.
Joe Massaua (SFS ’25), one of the commissioners of ANC 2E, which includes the university, introduced a resolution at the commission’s Feb. 27 meeting urging the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to purchase the trestle from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for $1 and to fund the bridge’s stabilization and restoration in its budget.
Built in 1896, the trestle used to carry streetcars over the park, connecting the Car Barn to an amusement park in Glen Echo, Md. The last trolleys ran on the trestle in January 1960.
The bridge was open for pedestrian use until 2003, and it has been in disrepair ever since. Because of the risk of collapse, the District in 2016 closed a part of the Glover-Archbold Trail that runs beneath the bridge.
Massaua said community advocates are pushing for the trestle’s restoration as part of a new trail, the Palisades Trolley Trail, which would run along the old trolley route from Georgetown into the Palisades.
“The whole right-of-way is still there,” Massaua told The Hoya. “It’s a very active right-of-way. People walk their dogs there, right by the reservoir, beautiful views of the Potomac and the canal.”
The bridge’s restoration is vital because it would create a link between the Foxhall neighborhood and Georgetown, according to Massaua.
“This is such a beneficial opportunity for there to be pedestrian connectability slash multi-use options to get to Foxhall,” Massaua said to The Hoya. “Saving the trestle is just a good first step to improve pedestrian connection with Foxhall and it’s a side of campus that’s been neglected for a little while.”
The proposed trolley trail would connect residents of Foxhall, Georgetown and the Palisades to 14 schools, five parks, two libraries, two hospitals and two pools, according to community advocate Brett Young, who has been involved in advocacy for repairing the trolley trestle for almost 10 years.
“Although it’s an expensive project, it’s going to be important and beneficial for all of us,” Young told The Hoya. “Sometimes you got to spend money to create quality connections. For the students and the faculty, making the university part of the city instead of an isolated island — part of the city that we’re going to have and make it bikeable and walkable.”
Massaua said it is important for the trestle to be placed in appropriate ownership, especially as WMATA is seeking to demolish the bridge.
“The resolution basically was advising WMATA — who doesn’t want it, they’ve said that they don’t want it and they’re actively trying to raze it — to sell it to the city for $1 via DDOT,” Massaua said. “They would probably be the best stakeholder to own this. It doesn’t make any sense why it’s still in WMATA’s hands.”
D.C. Councilmember Matt Frumin represents Ward 3, which includes Foxhall and Palisades, said that he has called on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to include $3 million in her proposed 2024 budget to stabilize the bridge and to design the future Palisades Trolley Trail.
“The future Palisades Trolley Trail has the potential to be a regional asset for both sustainable, non-vehicular transportation and for recreation,” Frumin wrote to The Hoya. “Once restored, the Trestle Bridge will be a centerpiece amid scenic ravines and sweeping views of the Potomac.”
“A multi-use trail along the former Glen Echo trolley path will be a useful amenity for all Washingtonians,” Frumin wrote. “I am actively working to ensure the Palisades Trolley Trail effort comes to fruition.”
Massaua credited partnerships between Frumin; ANC 2E, which represents Georgetown; ANC 3D, which represents Foxhall; community members; and students with the progress that advocates have made.
“Historically, in the past, there wasn’t really any momentum or any interest in saving this trestle,” Massaua said. “It’s exciting that our ANC is in a position where we would support this kind of project, and similarly for Foxhall and Palisades, and that there’s students who are on the ANC to support this project.”
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