streetsblog

Originally published in la.streetsblog.org

“How was the meeting?” Juan asked me as I came out of the multipurpose room at the Puente Learning Center.

He was just leaving his evening English class and had missed the public briefing on the design of the Sixth Street Viaduct replacement given by Councilmember José Huizar, Architect and Principal Designer Michael Matzlan, design-build firm HNTB, the Bureau of Engineering, and Project Contractors contractors Skanska and Stacy and Witbeck.

“Have you seen it?” I asked.

“No,” he shook his head.

I grabbed his arm and pulled him into the multipurpose room.

“Wow,” he said, impressed. “This looks really nice!”

He was right ”” the 47-foot model was pretty amazing.

Soaring forty-foot arches book-end a “ribbon of arches” that “weave [two disparate] communities together” via a massive multi-modal structure. Thirty-foot arches run the length of the rest of the 3500 ft. span of bridge, with the exception of two sixty-five-foot arches which will be accessible to pedestrians (one is visible in the top photo, at left) looking to either climb high above the structure or access the businesses and park space (to be created as part of the project) below it. Dedicated bike lanes run along either side of the traffic lanes. And the wide pedestrian walkway is both protected from traffic by a concrete barrier and unimpeded by light poles, thanks to the LED lighting that will be embedded in the arches and light both the street and the sidewalks.

The combination of the grandiosity of the design and the accessibility of the structure, project architect Michael Maltzan said, was intended to celebrate the notion that bridges were powerful “city amenit[ies] that should not be underestimated” (please take note, Glendale-Hyperion bridge project).

Which sounds great. Except it apparently almost didn’t happen.

Earlier this summer, the city received a letter from Caltrans stating that certain elements that had previously been approved for the $419 million project ”” barrier lighting, the stairs to access the top of the arches and the ground below, the ADA compliant spiral bike/pedestrian ramps linking the bridge with the park space below, and the arts plaza area (slated for the west side of the river) ”” were no longer eligible for Highway Bridge Program (HBP) funds.

Concerned the bike and pedestrian facilities and green space he considered “as important to [him] as the bridge itself” would be lost, Councilmember José Huizar sent district staff to Sacramento and reached out to Congressmember Xavier Becerra and State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León for assistance. With their help, and that of the Bureau of Engineering, nearly $20 million for those facilities was reinstated, ensuring that the new bridge will be what Huizar has deemed a “transformative space for Boyle Heights and the Arts District” and “as iconic as the original.”

And, because they were able to secure the funding for the bike and pedestrian facilities, the project was then eligible to receive an additional $2.5 million in funding from the Active Transportation Program (ATP).

So, the project is now back on track, if somewhat behind schedule.

Read the full story at  la.streetsblog.org

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