Sterling Park resident Helen Casey did not want a “plain old gray bridge” over the Goose Creek, so when she saw the developer’s plans for a 446-foot nine-span bridge, she could not ask for more.
“There’s so many things to like about it, and nothing not to like. It’s an aesthetically pleasing bridge, and it’s totally functional at the same time,” said Casey, chairperson of the Goose Creek Scenic River Advisory Board, a group originally opposed to bridge piers being built in certain areas of the Goose Creek. “My feeling is if you got to build a bridge, you might as well build a beautiful bridge as opposed to a plain old one.”
The advisory board, which is charged with protecting the Goose Creek, approved of the bridge’s design as presented by Lansdowne Community Development, LLC, developer of Lansdowne on the Potomac and coordinator of the project. Coton Bridge extends over Goose Creek, located on the west side of Lansdowne that runs through what was once the Coton Plantation, operated by the Lee family and the source of the bridge’s name. Goose Creek begins on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge in Fauquier County and travels 27.5 miles through Loudoun County.
“We could have built a normal steel bridge, but to pick up on some of the history in Lansdowne, we decided to build a span bridge,” said Leonard “Hobie” Mitchel, president of Lansdowne Community Development. “The old bridges of Loudoun were these arch span bridges.”
THE COUNTY REQUIRED Lansdowne Community Development to proffer a regular Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) steel bridge to the county in exchange for a rezoning requested by the first developers of Lansdowne. The bridge needed to connect to Riverside Parkway, a four-lane roadway that runs parallel to Route 7 on the north side, and provide access to Lansdowne on the Potomac.
“It made sense to do something that was aesthetic to look at without extra cost,” Mitchel said.
The bridge cost $6 million, about the same price as a steel bridge, Mitchel said. The design and engineering of the bridge took one-and-a-half years and construction another year with completion expected by Oct. 15. Lansdowne Community Development contracted Con/Span and Bridge Tek to design the bridge and Westlind Construction Company to erect the bridge. Westlind began work in July 2001 and completed most of the bridge by September 2002.
The bridge is formed from precast concrete arches placed on top of concrete foundation piers. Most of the bridge superstructure was fabricated in Ashland then transported to the bridge site.
THE BRIDGE’S FACADE was constructed with simulated stones from the creek and from the historic stone houses located in Lansdowne on the Potomac near the early 1920s Coton Barn. Hand-chiseled stones were found in the creek’s old canal locks, which were built in 1851 as part of a canal that was used once before rail was built on the Potomac.
“They never used it because the train put them out of business,” said Tom Marable, land development manager for Lansdowne Community Development.
Pennsylvania company Architectural Polymers made clay molds from the stones, then poured concrete into the molds to replicate the stones’ texture. The concrete was hand-painted with seven layers of paint.
“The precast samples were changed many times before the final panel was approved. The stone pattern and the mix of stain colors had to be perfect,” Marable said according to a statement. “We spent months reviewing sample after sample until it was exact.”
“These guys are like artists painting the bridge. It’s amazing how well it looks. You have to get up close to see the difference,” Mitchel said.
THE GROUPS involved in the design and building of the bridge include the Goose Creek Scenic River Advisory Board, Loudoun County government, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The bridge will be dedicated at 3 p.m. on Oct. 15 at a special dedication ceremony, which will be attended by Gov. Mark Warner, Virginia state officials, Loudoun County officials and members of the Goose Creek Scenic River Advisory Board.