Last night, the Bureau of Engineering held the first meeting to discuss a new design for the Sixth Street Viaduct, which connects the Arts District and Boyle Heights across the LA River. It's a popular filming location and could be considered one of Downtown LA's most famous structures, but unfortunately, "concrete cancer" (Alkali-Silica Reaction) required that the bridge be replaced, despite the protestations of neighborhood activists and preservations. Now that the viaduct's fate is sealed, the city announced a competition to design a new $401 million bridge, mostly funded by the Federal Highway Administration. There are currently six firms vying for the design contract (all of which were repped at the meeting last night): AECOM, ARUP, HNTB, Parsons, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. That list will be culled on July 31 to three potential consultants for the design competition. The finalists will present their designs in September, and a final selection will be made in October. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2018.
At last night's meeting of the Design Aesthetic Advisory Committee, representatives from the BoE spelled out the city's goals for the project and some of the changes that residents can expect for the new bridge. Perhaps the most prominent design change is that the BoE is insisting on a cable stayed bridge. Also important, a new alignment takes a curving route over the river, rather than the sharp turn the bridge currently makes above the west bank. The new bridge will have wider sidewalks, pedestrian and bike infrastructure, and enhanced access to the river. (Some public commenters asked for a suspended gondola and a place to dine above the river on the bridge, but those ideas are very speculative at this point.) DAAC member and architect Doug Suisman expressed some concern that only $5 million (i.e., about one percent) of the project's total budget is devoted to "River, Landscaping, Bicycle, and Pedestrian Work." Chief City Engineer Gary Lee Moore replied that the FHWA's requirements would determine a lot of the funding allocations, and that the BoE did not want to over-promise at this point in the process.
The meeting was also the first chance for the DAAC (appointed by city officials) to talk about their hopes from the bridge. All in attendance agreed that the bridge should be an architecturally significant public gathering place to help revitalize the two adjacent neighborhoods. The BoE presentation also stated clearly that the new bridge should "facilitate/celebrate [the] implementation of [the] LA River Revitalization Master Plan." Difficult decisions about historicism, modernism, and minimalism were discussed but left for later phases of the design competition.
· LA's Search For an Iconic New Sixth Street Bridge [Curbed LA]
· Council Votes to Replace Sixth Street Viaduct With Cable Bridge [Curbed LA]