Davis Path Footbridge

Project Summary

The Davis Path Footbridge, located between White Place, Boylston Street Playground and Route 9/Boylston Street, was deemed unsafe and closed to the public on Saturday, April 11, 2020.  The Town was in the process of conducting a conditions assessment and feasibility study with LiRo Engineers, Inc. at the time when they made the recommendation that the footbridge be closed to the public and the span, that runs over the D-Line MBTA tracks removed for public safety reasons.  

 

Following removal of the footbridge spans and decking the Department of Public Works presented cost estimates, to the Select Board and Advisory Committee, prepared in collaboration with LiRo Engineers, Inc for a temporary bridge, permanent bridge and design, survey, engineering and geo technical services to support both of these efforts.  Due to the high costs of working in the MBTA Right-Of-Way and other Town financial pressures, a temporary footbridge structure was not recommended for advancement.  Funding for additional assessment and concept phase planning to further refine a cost estimate that could be considered at a future date was supported.  The Town is currently soliciting quotes for a survey for both the bridge area and adjacent park.  While the survey work is taking place the Town will look to engage with a structural engineering firm to develop a conceptual plan, cost estimates and time frame with a degree of certainty that would assist with long term planning and funding discussions.  


The survey work is estimated to take place over the summer/fall with an engineering team to commence work on a concept plan with the Town in the winter.

Davis Path Footbridge Overview

Beginning on White Place and ending at Boylston Street across from the Lincoln School, the Davis Path links the residential neighborhoods south of the MBTA Greenline D Branch tracks with the educational, commercial, and governmental institutions in Brookline Village. This important pedestrian connection includes the Footbridge over the MBTA tracks. Named after the Davis family, who built their family home at the corner of Washington and Davis Streets in 1760, the path was at first named Walnut as it was considered an extension of the Walnut Path located nearby on the other side of Boylston Street. Grand and monumental in scale, Davis Paths' substantial stone bridge was designed by J.R. Worcester & Co., consulting engineers. The name was changed to Davis Path in 1924. Proximity to Brookline Village meant that the path was being built near the commercial heart of early Brookline. In the 1840s, White Place and the area to the east of the Village surrounding Linden Square were laid out in the compact and dense pattern characteristic of building of this era. Residential development continued to fan out from the heart of the Village, and was built in a variety of styles to house the burgeoning immigrant population. The history of the path and bridge has been documented in a book titled “Exploring the Paths of Brookline” and is available at http://brooklinehistoricalsociety.org/paths/Davis/davisPath.asp

The Davis Path Footbridge and Davis Path provided an important connection in the Town’s pedestrian network as a safe north-south connection over the D-Branch to Emerson Garden, the Library, Town Hall, Police Station, Pierce School, Brookline Village and neighborhoods west thereof, and Boylston Street. Additionally it provided a safe pedestrian connection to the Old Lincoln School, a building that has been in near continuous use as satellite facilities for the Town and School Department to facilitate other construction projects. Based on MassGIS data from the 2010 census, neighborhoods on both sides of the path and bridge meet “Minority” criterion threshold to be considered “Environmental Justice” (EJ) areas. In FY2018, the Town’s Capital Improvement Program funded a feasibility study, including a structural evaluation, of the Davis Path Footbridge. In April 2020, during the course of the feasibility study, the existing span was deemed structurally unsound and an emergency demolition was required to remove the span and restore safety to the site. Since the removal of the bridge the community has advocated for its replacement to restore this important pedestrian connection. 

The importance of this pedestrian connection was highlighted as part of a corridor mobility study of Boylston Street conducted by the Central Transportation Planning Staff of the Boston Region MPO which called for the creation of a safe pedestrian crossing across Boylston Street linking Davis Path with Walnut Path. Additionally, the Town’s Boylston Street Study Committee, a special committee created by the Select Board to “study improvements that help realize the community’s vision of transforming the corridor into a place defined by walkability, multi-modal transportation, and contextually-appropriate urban character - a mix of uses, open space, and an active public realm” recognized the footbridge as a vital part of   achieving these community goals and voted unanimously to recommend it’s restoration. Joining the committee in calling for the restoration of the bridge are elected local and state officials who have written to the Town and expressed their support and expectation that the bridge would be restored in the near future.

Given the community support, the Select Board’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050, and Town Meeting’s December 2019 Healthy & Sustainable Transportation resolution to achieve a mode split of 75% of trips by walking, biking, electric micro-mobility, and public transit (among others) the Town’s concept plan will be for a permanent, ADA/AAB compliant replacement bridge that will meet the needs of pedestrians of all abilities as well as cyclists and micro-mobility users. 

 

Davis Path Footbridge Actions & Timeline

FEASIBILITY STUDY and DEMOLITION

Based on the recommendation of the feasibility study carried out on the Davis Path Footbridge by LiRo Engineers, Inc., the footbridge was deemed unsafe and closed to the public on Saturday, April 11, 2020, pending further diagnostic investigations of the reinforcing steel and concrete at the main carrying beams. Final analyses revealed extensive loss of primary structural integrity and the recommendation for immediate removal, after repair explorations were demonstrated to be infeasible. The reinforced concrete (poured in-place) spans and decking at the footbridge, dating from 1912, and located above the MBTA Greenline D-branch tracks, were subsequently removed by Atlantic Coast Dismantling, LLC, on June 25, 2020.

 

TEMPORARY/PERMANENT BRIDGE REPLACEMENT COST ESTIMATES

Following demolition, Brookline DPW Engineering & Transportation engaged LiRo Engineers to further provide alternatives and associated cost estimates for both temporary and permanent pedestrian bridge replacements. And as of November, 2020, the immediate costs for a temporary bridge were estimated to be as high as $3.5M, while a permanent bridge estimated as much as $16M, each of the estimates providing figures for design, construction and MBTA coordination.

 

PEER REVIEW of REPLACEMENT COSTS

As a result of the significant investments required for both temporary and permanent bridge replacements, DPW’s focus turned to the permanent bridge replacement only, due to the short-lived and imprudent expenditure on a temporary facility. In addition, and in order to confidently provide a capital improvement value towards which the Town can viably work, the Commissioner of Public Works committed to undertake an engineering peer review of the initial LiRo estimates with WSP USA, an international engineering group with vast experience in transportation infrastructure yet with an office in Boston. While the peer analysis did determine the LiRo estimated costs to be higher than should be expected for a pedestrian bridge of this relatively short length, citing above all the initial assumption of conventional construction methods resulting in extended night-work timeframes and inefficient use of costly MBTA shutdowns, WSP further highlighted the fundamental need for the Town to develop a more detailed concept plan along with a construction narrative, both of which seeking to minimize MBTA impacts. Only with a fully developed concept plan, and associated constructability approach, vetted by the MBTA, as well as local stakeholders and a bridge contractor, can a more accurate cost estimate be provided.

 

STEP ONE: A COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY

The obvious first step in concept design is to develop a base plan, which requires a comprehensive horizontal and vertical survey of the bridge site, including adjacent park, commercial, residential and public way parcels, in addition to the MBTA Right-of-Way. DPW Engineering & Transportation is developing a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) that details the survey parameters, and plans to issue the RFP this July/August, 2021, with price proposals anticipated to be returned by professional land surveying firms by September, 2021. Thereafter, DPW will select a qualified surveyor, authorize funding, and contract for a base plan survey to be ready by December, 2021. Concurrent to this process, DPW will research the existing MBTA easement documents, which might inform the survey but most definitely guide MBTA permitting and plan requirements.

 

STEP TWO: WORK WITH A CREATIVE BRIDGE DESIGN ENGINEER for CONCEPT PLAN and ESTIMATE

DPW would then like to seek the best qualified structural engineering team to develop a viable concept plan and cost estimate for the permanent pedestrian bridge replacement. This concept design will require consideration of technical, design and constructability input from multiple stakeholders, including the MBTA, ADA/MAAB, adjacent neighborhoods, abutting owners, as well as several Town Boards and Commissions representative of the user or jurisdictional base. At this time, DPW Engineering & Transportation is exploring the development of an RFP tailored to this task, with a DPW Selection Committee, and establishing a summer/fall, 2021, timetable for the RFP process, and a winter/spring, 2021-2022, for concept design development by the selected bridge engineering consultant team. Both WSP and LiRo would, of course, be encouraged to submit proposals, given their familiarities with the project.

 

STEP THREE: REVIEW with a BRIDGE CONTRACTOR to BALANCE DESIGN and CONSTRUCTIBILITY APPROACHES/COSTS

DPW and Consulting Bridge Engineering will consider consulting with a qualified bridge contractor at critical junctures in the concept design development to review and refine both the design elements and constructability aspects. The idea is that in mimicking this aspect of a design-build relationship, the Town is better able to provide a design whose construction costs, as they relate to materials, contractor methods, and MBTA allowances capture significant efficiencies early-on in the design process, while providing a more substantive and reliable cost estimate. This process would benefit from close consultation with the Greenline’s Capital Delivery team in terms of diversion, inspector and flagging costs, as well as MBTA acceptable means and methods.

 

STEP FOUR: MAPPING FUNDING ALTERNATIVES and TIMELINES

With an accepted and buildable concept plan provided, as well as a verified cost estimate, DPW can effectively profile funding alternatives, whether fully capitalized by Brookline DPW’s CIP, or costs shared by related or adjacent projects, or bolstered by outside funding matches or programs.

Davis Path Footbrige Initial Study and Removal

PHASE ONE: EARLY ACTION (August 2019)

Remedial repairs, identified in LiRo's Early Action Report, were made to the stair treads and other areas by the Town's contractor through the Building Department.


PHASE TWO: EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR INSPECTION (November 2019 and February 2020)

Engineers from LiRo Engineering conducted an inspection of the exterior of the bridge (November 2019) and the interior of the abutments (February 2020) in anticipation of drafting the feasibility study. Based on the condition of the concrete and reinforcing steel, which was more deteriorated than anticipated between November 2019 and February 2020, LiRo recommended a petrographic analysis and additional material testing to ascertain the existing condition.


PHASE THREE: BRIDGE CLOSURE AND REMOVAL (Complete - June 2020)

Following the additional material sampling on April 10, 2020, based on the recommendation of LiRo Engineering, the Town closed the bridge to public access due to the observed condition of one of the two main supporting girders. A followup structural analysis calculation determined that the original bridge span over the MBTA tracks must be removed for safety purposes. As a result the Town is working with LiRo Engineering and the MBTA to bring on a contractor to demolish the span only in late May, early June of 2020.

A video of the removal of the footbridge span can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/vwe6tuKiz0Q

Phase 3 Project Updates:

May 13, 2020

May 5, 2020


PHASE FOUR: TEMPORARY BRIDGE (Ongoing)

Since the conclusion of the demolition work in June 2020 the Engineering Division has continued to work closely with LiRo Engineering and the MBTA to devise a plan for implementation of a temporary span. The Town is considering various bridge options to restore this pedestrian link with a temporary structure that could remain in place for several years while the planning and design is developed for a permanent replacement bridge. 


PHASE FIVE: PERMANENT BRIDGE (Ongoing)

As the Engineering Division develops a plan to install a temporary structure, the Town is also early in the planning stages for a permanent replacement bridge. The Town developed preliminary cost estimates for various bridge alternatives and developed an estimated timeline for implementation of a permanent structure, from planning through construction. A funding source for the permanent bridge has not been identified at this time, however the Town is considering various grant opportunities to potentially fund a portion, if not all, of the cost of a permanent bridge. Since grant opportunities are not guaranteed the Engineering Division will request to include the design and construction in the Town's CIP for out years, the exact time frame of which is to be determined.