Many residents believe that the most identified image of Belmont is the one that thousands of drivers transverse everyday: the century-old stone railroad bridge at the intersection of Common Street and Concord Avenue that is the entry to Belmont Center.
A traffic magnet during morning and evening rush hours for drivers and commuters who use the MBTA rail system to and from Boston, the iconic overpass bridge is seen by countless commuters each weekday and to anyone who travels to Belmont's business and restaurant hub. It's hard not to pass by or under the bridge sometime during an average week.
But as a popular thoroughfare with two dozen rail trips a day, the bridge – built in 1907 – has suffered through years of fumes, grime, neglect and just plain asphalt kicked up by the threadbare road surface under the structure.
This symbol of Belmont is dark and dirty.
This Saturday, May 19, on the annual Belmont Town Day, residents will be able to purchase a sponge to help clean the bridge.
Well, not literally taking sponges to wash off years of grime from the stones. Rather the Belmont Center Railroad Bridge Alliance will be seeking donations from residents and railroad enthusiast in a renewed effort to support cleaning and refurbishing the Belmont Center railroad overpass bridge by purchasing a sponge at the Belmont Citizens Forum booth.
This project has garnered wide-community support and will be highly visible, with tangible results and resulting publicity.
The alliance – which includes the Belmont Historic District Commission, Belmont Historical Society, Sesquicentennial Planning Committee, Belmont Center Planning Group, Belmont Center Business Association, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Belmont Garden Club, Belmont Woman’s Club and Belmont Town Club – propose to clean the stonework, repair and repaint the wrought iron fencing along the top of the bridge, replace dull, broken lighting and landscape the area.
According to spokespersons Marc and Libby Firenze, the alliance propose to do the work in steps. The first – and the most visually impressive – will be power washing the bridge. The last will be to repair the wrought iron fence, which will require help from the MBTA.
"Imagine how it will look—a clean granite bridge, rambling roses climbing the wrought iron fence, and dramatic lighting that highlights the design and materials," said the Firenzes.
The planning and organizing for the bridge refurbishment project is being handled by private individuals and organizations at absolutely no cost to the town. Some of the work will be done by volunteers such as the Belmont Garden Club reviewing a plan prepared by a local landscape architect.
The alliance expects the project will cost $35,000 with one business having pledged about $10,000.
Contributions will be tax-exempt and handled by the Belmont Citizens Forum, a 501(c)(3) organization.