Almost everyone in Boyle Heights knows the story by now: in 2016, the original Sixth Street Bridge was closed and was demolished after being declared seismically unfit. Now, six years later, a replacement is ready to bridge the neighborhood and downtown once more.
“As an Angeleno, these are the moments we live for,’ gleamed Mayor Eric Garcetti during an early morning visit to the finished construction site Friday. ‘We lost a dear old friend but now we have a shining new star that represents what our community is all about.”
“These beautiful arches are a nod to our past and a bridge to the future,” the mayor said. “To the city of LA, this is a love letter to you.”
The mayor was one of several elected officials and one very special city employee who gushed over the new $588 million construction project during Friday’s press preview.
.“Being able to stand here today on a bridge that can withstand a one in one thousand year seismic event is amazing,” said Gary Lee Moore, the City Engineer who has overseen the project through its construction. “For me, today feels like Christmas in July.”
“This is a historic weekend for all of LA and especially for the residents of Boyle Heights who deserve a beautiful, iconic symbol,” said City Councilmember Kevin de León. ‘There’s the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory, and without a doubt this new bridge is going to be amongst those iconic symbols of LA.”
The original Sixth Street Viaduct was constructed in 1932 and became a community landmark, featured in films and television shows, and a staple in the Eastside low-rider scene. But after nearly nine decades of its arches connecting downtown and Boyle Heights, the concrete was found to be unable to sustain seismic pressures due to an alkali-silica chemical reaction that caused its concrete to expand and crack over time.
“I remember walking and driving across the bridge with my kid when he was little and when he was about three years of age and it was announced the bridge was closing, I remember crossing it and taking a look out into the city one last time,” reminisced Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, who lives in Boyle Heights.
“My kid’s nine years old now and it’s gonna be pretty sweet bringing him down here and seeing the look in his eyes,” Santiago said. “I know a lot of our community is gonna feel the same way when they cross it for the first time in a long time.”
Developed by architect Michael Maltzan and HNTB, the new viaduct’s design has been dubbed “Ribbon of Light” because 10 of its 20 sweeping arches have color-changing LED lights. It also features wider sidewalks than its predecessor, protected bike lanes, two helical ramps in Boyle Heights connecting both North and South sides of the bridge, another ramp by the Arts District, and five additional sets of stairs connecting to the ground underneath.
Following a private celebration Friday evening, the bridge will open only to pedestrians on Saturday for a public celebration, from 2-9 pm. Musical performances from Ozomatli, La Sonora Dinamita and other artists will begin at 4 pm. The celebration will include a tribute display featuring 100 years of cars in the city (including lowriders) and an array of food trucks and handmade arts and crafts vendors will also be at the event.
On Sunday, the bridge will open to pedestrians and cyclists from 11 am to 4 pm. It will finally open to vehicular traffic later in the evening.
“The community and people of Boyle Heights really deserve all the credit for this project,” said De León. “They’ve been involved in every single step of this process and have patiently waited for the day of their landmark’s return.”
“Everytime you cross that bridge and see the Ribbons of Light, just know those stars are shining because of you, Boyle Heights,” the councilmember added. “I know that’s how I’ll feel when I drive across in a lowrider when it opens.”
That will happen at 7 pm on Sunday, when De León is set to be the first person to drive across the bridge’s full span.