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William Smith + the Carlton Street Footbridge receives 2024 Frederick Law Olmsted Award


A family standing on the restored footbridge.
Carlton Street Footbridge

Preservation Mass is pleased to announce that William Smith + the Carlton Street Footbridge project have received the 2024 Frederick Law Olmsted Award.


During his more than 25-year career at the Brookline, MA, Engineering and Transportation department, William (Bill) Smith, a Registered Architect, has dedicated himself to the Town by coordinating a wide range of projects that have materially improved the historic and cultural fabric of Brookline.


Bill’s most recent major achievement was the 2023 reopening of the restored Carlton Street Footbridge (CSF), named by PM in 2002 as one of our Most Endangered Resources. At the local level, this was a controversial project that required more than 10 years of effort, with multiple feasibility, historic and transportation reports, design review committee meetings, dueling demolition-restoration warrant articles, petitions and letters of support and a “spirited street-by-street campaign,” culminating in 2009 with a favorable vote by Brookline’s Town Meeting to fund restoration. The next decade entailed a glacially paced application to the MA Department of Transportation for 90% funding through the state/federal Transportation Improvement Program. Bill was the “glue” that provided leadership through all these efforts.


The beginning of the Carlton Street Footbridge restoration dates back almost 40 years. In 1976, Brookline closed the bridge because of poor maintenance. To quote Gov. Michael Dukakis, a nearby resident, this was a “monument to civic neglect." Around 1985, a citizen’s committee was drafting the Emerald Necklace Master Plan for Brookline. One of the recommendations was to restore the Carlton Street pedestrian bridge over the MBTA tracks.


The challenge of this project was to provide a universally accessible, ADA/MAAB-compliant bridge that would accommodate bicycle traffic and furnish new surface lighting, constructed safely above an active MBTA track within a nationally recognized historic landscape.


Because of its historic beginning and its current rusted condition, a “Finishes Investigation” to discover the original finish coat was conducted. Working with Architectural Conservation Services of Bristol, RI, samples were removed and examined microscopically to provide a color to match the original finish coat.


In early 2020, the initial project bid was substantially more the MassDOT had projected, so materials and techniques were revised and new bids invited. Aetna Bridge Company of Warwick, RI, began construction in March 2021. The decision was made to remove the entire bridge superstructure from over the tracks and transport it by truck to Coventry, RI, for repair, restoration and painting. While the superstructure was being restored in Coventry, construction of new foundations and the new accessible ramps took place on-site in Brookline, without interfering with Green Line operations. After the trusses and stairs were restored and painted, they were transported back to Brookline and lifted into place onto the new foundations.


After resetting the bridge, a new naturally rot- and fire-resistant IPE timber deck was installed on the main trusses and stairs, replicating the historic timber decking. About 170 feet of slip-resistant ADA-compliant aluminum grating was installed on the new accessible ramps and anti-missile barriers, railings, lighting, and other bridge elements were also installed.


On September 17, 2023, the greater Brookline community gathered at the invitation of the Town of Brookline’s Department of Public Works (DPW), to celebrate the official re-opening of the Carlton Street Footbridge, since closing nearly a half-century earlier.

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