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Modern span will replace historic downtown L.A. bridge

November 18, 2011 |  4:54 pm

Sixth Street Bridge
A modern cable-supported bridge will replace the stately arches of the 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River on downtown's eastern edge, the Los Angeles City Council decided.

The chance to build a new monument that will reflect contemporary design won out over an appeal from preservationists to replicate the double steel arches in the main span.

“We’re going to have a bridge that links to the city’s past while looking to the future,” said Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes the 1932 bridge. “I think it’s the right direction to go.”

Tom LaBonge was the only council member to vote against the new design, decrying the loss of a bridge that is viewed by preservationists as a key part of an ensemble of a dozen historic Los Angeles River bridges.

“This drastically changes what is a tremendous view of this bridge,” he said. “It hurts me to see that we would let this bridge go.”

He pressed for an alternative favored by the Cultural Heritage Commission and the Los Angeles Conservancy, which would have included the arches but would have cost about $20 million more. 

The council’s decision allows the city’s engineers to move forward with the design process for the $401-million bridge. Gary Lee Moore, the city engineer, promised that the process would include extensive public outreach, including creating an aesthetic advisory committee that would look at such features as colors, textures, lighting, railings and monuments to create gateways to the bridge.

Richard Barron, president of the Cultural Heritage Commission, said that the commissioners will now focus on influencing the design of the new cable-supported bridge, which they believe must complement and not dominate the other historic bridges crossing the river.

He said the commission would try to make sure the the new bridge appropriately incorporated  references to the current bridge’s admired Art Deco and Streamline Moderne features. “I think what we want to avoid is a Christmas decoration approach,” he said.

Alex Ward, the chairman of Friends of the Los Angeles River, said his group, which had advocated for a contemporary design, would urge the city to hire a “top-flight design team.” “The focus will now shift to making sure that we get the best possible, most innovative design,” he said.



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Photos: (top) The nearly 80-year-old 6th Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

(bottom) A computer rendering of the new bridge. Credit: Donald McDonald & Associates, provided by the city of Los Angeles