Metro, Newton

Newton to Rehabilitate Christina Street Rail Bridge

The City of Newton began a feasibility study to determine whether the Christina Street Rail Bridge will be renovated or rebuilt, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced on April 8. 

“The project will provide an assessment of reuse or replacement of the Christina Street bridge for use as a fully accessible, shared-use bicycle and pedestrian connection between Newton and the Blue Heron Trail in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) land in Needham,” Fuller said.

The bridge, which connects Newton and Needham, was in use from 1959 to 2010. Pedestrian access to the bridge closed two years ago due to compromised piers and deteriorating conditions, according to Fuller. Assistant Environmental Planner Claire Rundelli said in an introductory video about the study that the current condition of the bridge was likely due to a combination of age, ice action, and logs and debris.

While the bridge was closed, the city applied for state grant money to renovate it, Fuller said. Newton received $56,700 from the MassTrails Program in August and is now taking the first steps toward reopening the bridge for pedestrians, including conducting a feasibility study, according to Fuller . 

“The city is matching with just over $14,000 of the grant agreement, and that project includes the feasibility study of the bridge, feasibility assessment of developing those cost-options, and the development of conceptual design plans,” Rundelli said. 

Rundelli hopes that further grants or state funding will become available for future project work. 

“The feasibility study is just about determining what options are the best for getting the bridge open for folks,” Rundelli said. “We do have a timeline from the grant that is funding the feasibility study, so the work is due to be completed by the end of June.”

As part of the study, the city is asking residents to fill out a survey about their usage of the bridge and the function that they would like the renovated bridge to serve. 

“The feasibility study is just about determining what options are the best for getting the bridge open for folks,” Rundelli said. “We do have a timeline from the grant that is funding the feasibility study, so the work is due to be completed by the end of June.”

Consulting and design firm VHB is in charge of conducting the feasibility study and assessment, and will build up the concepts once the study is completed. Rundelli said that after the feasibility study is completed, community engagement will open up and conceptual designs will be presented if there is time at the end of the process. 

Rundelli said the three options include renovation, reuse, or demolition and replacement. The final choice will come down to the City of Newton and the town of Needham based on functionality, cost, and access. 

“We want whatever we open to the public to have as long of a lifespan as possible,” Rundelli said. “If we’re only going to get another 20 years out of the bridge if we rehab it, then maybe the best option is to build a new bridge.”

Fuller said that the new bridge will help to connect the Newton side of Needham St. and the Needham area east of I-95.

“The feasibility study will lay the foundation for the construction of a fully accessible, shared-use path connection, when funding is available,” Fuller said.

After structural and geometric assessments have been conducted, designs for rehabilitation, demolition, reconstruction, or construction will be developed, Fuller said. She said that concept level plans will then be developed for the preferred scenario. 

Rundelli said that the feasibility study will lay the groundwork for a new bridge that pedestrians, commuters, and bikers can share when walking between DCR land in Needham and Upper Falls in Newton. 

“The hope with the feasibility study is that we will be able to have a full analysis of the options so that we can really see the big picture and make the best choice for the community of the future,” Rundelli said.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / for The Heights

April 18, 2021
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