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Construction begins on pedestrian bridge over LA River

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People on bikes and on foot will have their own path between Silver Lake and Atwater Village

The Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, as seen from the east bank of the LA River looking north.
Liz Kuball

Construction kicked off Monday on a pedestrian bridge that will span the Los Angeles River and connect cyclists and pedestrians moving between Silver Lake and Atwater Village.

The new 430-foot-long bridge will use piers that were left behind by the Pacific Electric “Red Car” trolleys.

“This new amenity has been sixteen years in the making,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the area, said in a statement. “My number-one transportation priority is pedestrian safety, and this project will allow more people to safely cross the Los Angeles River.”

Part of the project involves relocating a mural depicting the Red Car trolleys by Raphael Escamilla. The city’s cultural affairs department will help find a new home for the artwork.

The new bridge is expected to be complete in a year.

The exterior of silver lake atwater bridge in Los Angeles.
A rendering of the bridge as seen from the 5 Freeway offramp at Glendale Boulevard.
Via the Bureau of Engineering

The completed pedestrian bridge will be “critical” during the retrofit and restoration of the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, said O’Farrell. The bridge complex opened in 1928 and is awaiting a major seismic retrofit.

The pedestrian bridge will make it possible for people on bikes and on foot to cross the river safely during the three years it’s expected to take to upgrade the Glendale-Hyperion bridge complex.

But the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council would like to see the crossing be a little bit safer. The council has launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at convincing city leaders to include a pedestrian underpass on the east bank of the river under the Glendale-Hyperion bridge complex.

Putting a pedestrian and bike underpass there would create a “loop” connecting amenities on the west side of the river—the riverside bike path and the Sunnynook River Park— an existing pedestrian bridge on the north side of the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, and the forthcoming Red Car pedestrian bridge on the east side.

An image from a 2008 study for the Sunnynook River Park. The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council wants to build an underpass on the east side of the river, under what the map calls the Glendale/Hyperion viaduct. The Sunnynook Pedestrian bridge exists now. The new Red Car Pedestrian Bridge is represented by the yellow dotted lines over the river on the southeast side of the bridge.
Via Bureau of Engineering

In the form letter it’s using for its campaign, the neighborhood council argues that eight-lane-wide Glendale-Hyperion bridge complex is “unsafe to cross [on a bike or on foot], even if there’s a future crosswalk close by.” The addition of an underpass is vital and necessary for safety and connectivity, “top among the city’s stated goals for river revitalization,” it says.

The letter contends that because the retrofit of the Glendale-Hyperion bridge is still a ways off, there’s still time to add the underpass to the plan, but the window of opportunity is closing.

“For the city, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create this fiscally prudent and socially responsible continuous river path,” the letter says.

Finding funding for the project is an issue, though the neighborhood council has reached out to a number of state and county sources about possible funding for studies needed before the underpass can officially be added to the project.

Another issue for the underpass would be the timing of the project. With the renovation on the Glendale-Hyperion complex scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020, adding the underpass would have to happen quickly.