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A grant to renovate Brookline's Carlton Street Footbridge

Posted by Tom Coakley  January 27, 2010 02:30 PM

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By Andreae Downs Globe Correspondent

The closed, rusted span that could be the key to loosing state and federal flood mitigation funds for the Muddy River came one step closer to reopening this week.

Town officials this week (Tuesday 1/26 cq) presented Selectmen with a federal grant application which would cover about 80 percent of the estimated $1.4 million construction and design funding needed to restore the Carlton Street Footbridge. The proposal also calls for making the 1894 cast iron bridge accessible with two ramps.

The town has agreed to renovate the bridge as part of a plan to dredge the Muddy River to prevent flooding and restore parkland along the river. If the bridge is not restored, the town will lose state and federal funds for the projects

Opposition to the reopening resurfaced at the Jan. 26 public hearing. Current and former neighbors of the bridge recalled when it was last open, roughly 40 years ago, according to several at the hearing.

“Druggies, drinkers and loiterers” found haven on the bridge because it was surrounded by trees and brush that made it invisible from both park and street, said Sandra Siler, a former abutter.

Fred Lebow , a former Town Meeting Member and current bridge neighbor, questioned whether the grant application was legal.

“You can’t restore a bridge historically if you add ramps,” he said, warning that the town and its officials could be sued for submitting the grant application.

But bridge supporters pointed to plans and studies old and new that included that entrance as part of the Riverway Park , one of several that make up Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace. They noted that the $92 million Master Plan to dredge the Muddy River, which runs through much of the Necklace, calls for the bridge’s restoration. Several people whose homes had been flooded in 1996 and 1998 , when the Muddy overflowed into Kenmore station as well as institutions along the Fenway, supported the bridge grant.

Nancy Daly , chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, agreed, noting a November 2009 Town Meeting vote to restore the bridge. Unless outside funds are found to pay for the restoration, the town will have to cover the construction, she said.

“Town Meeting voted for this; the state said we had to do it,” she said. “So this hearing is just about the grant.”

If the grant is successful, construction on the bridge, which spans the D-Line tracks, would begin in 2013 . If the town has to come up with the funds, construction could be significantly later, supporters said.

Andrew Fischer, a Town Meeting member and bicyclist, noted that the state bicycling organization MassBike had identified the bridge as a “key link” between the Muddy and Charles river bike paths.

“This is like not having a direct connection between the Mass Pike and 128” for bicycle commuters, he said.

Sean Lynn-Jones, who lives in the neighborhood, said that he sees people daily try to cross the Green Line tracks near the bridge entrance through the chain-link fences. Andre Martecchini , principal engineer at SEA Consultants, Inc. , who presented plans and a budget for the restoration, said that when he inspected the bridge recently, he noticed evidence that people are still using it, despite missing planks in the wooden deck.

“Now, this is an attractive nuisance,” he said.

Selectmen are due to sign the grant application February 23 in order to file it with the federal Transportation Enhancement program , administered by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. , by the February 26 deadline. The board is accepting public comment until February 9 at Board of Selectmen, Town Hall, 333 Washington St, Sixth Floor, Brookline, MA 02445 .

Andreae Downs can be reached at andreaedowns@yahoo.com.

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