Crossing the Los Angeles River, or what remains of it, is a daily ritual for thousands of Angelenos. Most are workers who live in the east and cross every morning heading west to work in the center of the city or beyond and make the trip in the opposite direction”” by car, bus or even on foot”” in the evening or at night.
And no crossing is more dramatic than the one done by the Sixth Street Bridge, a majestic structure of concrete and steel dating back to 1932, which extends nearly a mile, and connects downtown to the neighborhood of Boyle Heights. So iconic is the bridge, with its high concrete towers and two metal arches, that it has appeared in countless movies, videos and television commercials.
The largest and last built of the bridges over the river is the only one that suffers the architectural equivalent of an incurable illness, and authorities have determined the bridge could not survive a strong earthquake. The bridge contains Alkali- Silica Reaction or ASR, a chemical reaction that creates a gel that corrodes cement.
On Friday, the City Council made the difficult but necessary decision to demolish the 79-year-old structure. The council opted to replace the bridge with a modern design, one that does not replicate the bridge’s current form and its dual arc, despite objections from groups like the Cultural Heritage Commission and the Los Angeles Conservancy.
The demolition and construction of the bridge will cost $401- million, most of which would come from federal funds. The construction project will begin in three years and last four, during which the bridge will remain closed. As reported by the Los Angeles Times last week, the diversion of traffic to the north bridges off Fourth and First streets, will adversely affect some 33 business and cause the loss of 200 jobs– not to mention noise problems, environmental pollution and traffic congestion.
But groups like Friends of the Los Angeles River celebrated the decision to create a new type of bridge that will have wider sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists.
While securing federal funds, the city promised to create new programs to involve communities affected by the possible temporary closure of the Sixth Street intersection. In addition, there are plans to create a historical record of the bridge, which from this week, is counting its last days.