A Visit to LA’s Largest Bridge Construction Project

Last week, I was invited by the Bureau of Engineering to tour the construction of the Sixth Street Viaduct (bridge) replacement. The new bridge is one of the largest public works projects in the City of Los Angeles with a budget of over $400 million. As a new member of the Board of Public Works, I’ve quickly have had to learn more about this project.

The original Sixth Street Viaduct built in 1932

History of the Bridge

The Sixth Street Viaduct was constructed in 1932 and was an iconic engineering landmark that has been featured in dozens of films. You may remember it from the drag race scene in Grease (my favorite movie filmed at the bridge).

Just 20 years after the bridge was constructed the cement supports began to disintegrate due to a chemical reaction that caused deterioration of the structure. It was determined that the bridge had a 70% probability of collapse due to a major earthquake. After trying various methods to restore the bridge that were unsuccessful, City engineers determined that it needed to be demolished and replaced. Mayor Garcetti, city staff and partners broke ground on a new bridge design in February 2015. The design of the bridge, known as “The Ribbon of Light”, was created by LA architect Michael Maltzan.

New design of the Sixth Street Bridge

Visiting the Construction of the New Bridge

I invited a group of girls from Boyle Heights, the LA neighborhood that is on one side of the bridge, to join me on a tour of the construction site. The girls are members of a STEM club at their school and were excited to meet engineers working on the bridge. Our tour was led by Julia Moye, an engineer from the Bureau of Engineering. After watching a simulation of the bridge design, we headed out to the LA River and saw the foundations of the bridge that is under construction. Julia explained the reasons the old bridge had to be demolished and answered questions from the girls.

We then headed to Boyle Heights (the other side of the future bridge) and were amazed by the view of downtown LA. We learned that the bridge is expected to be completed in late 2020 and all of us calculated how old we would be when the bridge was finished. In addition to getting cars, pedestrians and bicyclists across the river, the new bridge will have an art plaza and park beneath it. One of the girls asked if there could be a dog park there. We all spent a few minutes envisioning what it will be like to walk across the completed bridge.

In Boyle Heights where one end of the bridge will be and enjoying the view of downtown LA

After the tour we went back to the bridge project offices and saw the 3D printed model of the future bridge. I can’t wait to walk across the bridge in a few years!

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