Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 17, 2017 Likes Comments

One Bridge Down, One to Go!

With the recent reopening of Cook’s Bridge linking Newton’s Elliot Street with Needham’s Central Avenue, a plan to repair a second bridge over the Charles River linking the two communities has now moved forward for consideration.

Last fall, Newton and Needham residents formed the Echo Bridge Railing Committee to focus public and private resources to work with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), owner of the iconic Echo Bridge, to seek Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for an in-kind reconstruction of the 140-year old cast iron railings now obscured by temporary chain link fencing installed in 2008 for safety reasons. The establishment of the Committee was in response to an earlier railing proposal by MWRA during the late summer.

Plans to advance the historic railing reconstruction took a big step forward with two approvals—one from the Newton Upper Falls Historic District Commission on November 11, 2016 and one by the Needham Historical Commission November 21. MWRA and Committee members developed a Railing Reconstruction Plan based on a 2007 study by the preservation planning firm McGinley Kalsow & Associates.

“Echo Bridge is not only beautiful; it’s an important pathway for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Andreae Downs, chair of Newton’s Transportation Advisory Group and a member of the Railing Committee. “Clear January days are perfect for walking across Echo Bridge to take in the view, and also to see how badly the railings need repair,” she added.

Echo Bridge was built in 1876 to carry water to the growing City of Boston and now serves as a back-up water supply, last used in 2010. Both Echo Bridge, and the Sudbury Aqueduct which is housed inside the Bridge, are structurally sound, and the water supply for metropolitan Boston is safe and secure. Therefore, with total project cost estimated at $1.44 million, MWRA could not justify dedicating ratepayer dollars to fully fund a reconstruction of the historic railings.

The Committee concluded that there were two ways to generate support for sharing the cost for reconstructing the railings with the MWRA:

1) MWRA would apply to both Needham and Newton for CPA funding, and

2) The Railing Committee would launch a private capital fundraising campaign,to which $116,120 has already been pledged.

On December 8 the Newton Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted to invite a full proposal on the Echo Bridge Historic Railing Reconstruction Project for its consideration. On

December 14 the Needham CPC voted that the project is eligible for CPA funding, which is the first step in the process of deliberations for Needham’s 2017 planning cycle.

“As the Echo Bridge Railing Committee launches our public awareness and pledge drive, we aim to secure hundreds of pledges by mid February from Newton and Needham residents who are fond of Echo Bridge and value its preservation,” said Lee Fisher, chairman of the Committee.“We need pledges both large and small in order to show the two Community Preservation Committees that this project has both wide spread support within the City/Town and a significantcommitment of private funds to leverage potential CPA funding,” he emphasized.

The Echo Bridge Promenade is one of the best kept secrets in Metropolitan Boston. This multi-use pathwayoffers dramatic views of the Charles River as it drops over the nearby falls and winds its way through Hemlock Gorge. Greg Reibman, President of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, says “Echo Bridge is emblematic to the Chamber because it has so beautifully linked Newton and Needham since 1876, much as we are linking these business communities in the N2 Innovation District today.”

Echo Bridge's handsome granite and brick design contributes to the rugged beauty of surrounding Hemlock Gorge, one of the first of five parks acquired by the Metropolitan Park Commission in 1893. The bridge is on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and it is the second longest masonry arch on the continent. Once a major tourist destination, it continues to serve as a popular spot for hikers, artists and nature lovers and as a transportation corridor.

“With these railings in such dire need of attention, it is so important for all entities to come together, as they did in reconstructing the Central Ave/Elliot St bridge, to commit to a historically accurate replication of the railings,” said former Needham Selectman Jack Cogswell. “Another temporary fix to this long neglected need would be short sighted,” he added.

“Echo Bridge represents a period in American history where civil engineering projects to build waterworks and span rivers provided the infrastructure needed to support the growing country, while remaining aware of the aesthetic impact of public structures,” said Joe Hunter, Assistant VP at Olin College and a director of the Needham Historical Society. “Now we have an opportunity to enhance this incomparable public resource in our towns that provides, to this day, transportation and recreational benefits to our residents.”

For more information and pledging instructions see:

Echo Bridge Railing Committee

The ad-hoc Echo Bridge Railing Committee (the “Committee”) formed to lead the effort to raise public attention and private funds to complement public funds to replicate the historic railings.

Media Relations Contact

Lee Fisher, Chairman of Echo Bridge Railing Committee

Newton Upper Falls

617 527 0614


MWRA Application to Newton CPC:

2007 Feasibility Study: Follow link at bottom of this site:

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