Competing Visions for 6th Street Viaduct “Iconic,” but Residents’ Concerns More Practical

One of the models of the sixth street bridge, presented by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

“This is an era, a new chapter, a new opportunity to do something different,” said Mayor Antonio Villaragosa of plans to rebuild the 6th Street Viaduct. Replacing the crumbling bridge is one of the major infrastructure projects on the city’s plans for the next couple of years, and there’s no shortage of big visions.

While everyone from Villaraigosa, to 14th District Council Member Jose Huizar, to the architects seem to want an “iconic” bridge that is known worldwide, at the unveiling of the 6th Street Bridge Viaduct proposals, Boyle Heights residents felt that the proposals ignored their needs and the community as a whole.

“In their artwork, they’re really disregarding Boyle Heights,” said Edward Padilla, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, gesturing at one proposal.

The proposed replacement bridge projects unveiled yesterday by the three finalists selected by the city — HNTB, AECOM, and Parsons Brinckerhoff — focused on creating a place that is walkable, bike-friendly, and a tourist attraction. Each proposal came with a list of environmental design standards that were employed. All of the proposals included parks and public areas, but the details for how neighborhoods could use the areas was left unclear.

“How does that particular neighborhood decide to use it?” asked Huizar. “On each side of the river, those land uses around the bridge, there’s concepts and ideas and funding. Now what do you really create on each side of the bridge?”

To those worried about the design, Huizar assured them that, even though the firms were presenting what looked to be pretty detailed proposals, the process is not finished.

During their presentations, the architecture firms focused on building community support, yet only AECOM explained their road map to detailing what would be involved to achieve this kind of plan.

Armando Gonzalez, owner of Soul Skating, a skate shop in Boyle Heights, said that he hoped to see the firms reach out to younger people so they could understand how the viaduct would be used going forward.

“We need to make sure that the young people are also voicing their feedback, because there seems to be a lot of concentration on development underneath the bridge that requires young people to voice what they feel,” Gonzalez said.

Maria Soria, a Boyle Heights resident, said that she didn’t see enough lights along the sidewalks on bridge. A lack of sufficient lighting is one of the major barriers to walking at night in the neighborhood.

Leticia Velazquez, another resident who came with Soria, said that since the parks are away from the residential areas, there should be a bus to pick up elderly people that want to use the park as well.

While Soria’s and Velazquez’s priorities focused on lighting and access, they liked how the projects focused on making the bridges more pedestrian-friendly.

“People in Boyle Heights,” Soria added, “always walk in pairs.”

She and Valezquez  know each other because they met on a walk. The two remain walking partners years later. With well-lit options in a safer community, both hope that in the future, everyone would feel comfortable taking a walk on their own.

Here’s a schedule of the remaining meetings:

Thursday, September 13, 6:30- 8:30 p.m.
Para Los Ninos
1617 E. 7th St. 90021

Monday, September 17, 6:30- 8:30 p.m.
SCI-Arc, Keck Hall
350 S. Merrick St. 90013

Tuesday, September 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center
1600 E. Fourth St. 90033

  • Art Walk night was not the best time to have the only meeting near Historic Downtown and everyone else who lives west of Main Street.

  • Hardhatcomm

    Like the PB design – the sense of flight and the observation deck.

  • Joe B

    That thing looks like it belongs in Tomorrowland. 

  • Sean MacGowan

    AECOM’s design is the least attractive.  Parson’s-Brinckerhoff’s has a fatal design flaw.  HNTB is by far the most memorable.  It offers numerous vantage opportunities for pedestrians (shown in another render); they walk up through and over its arches.  It would be fun to explore on foot, checking out the high and low points in a quite literal sense.  On the other hand, the Parsons’ design doesn’t pass pedestrian scrutiny.  Who want’s to walk down the middle of the street?  With cars zooming past in both directions, the experience would rival Metro’s light rail stations in freeway medians, noisy and confining.  Also, it pulls people away from the best views along the bridge’s edges.  The walkway is little more than a very long ramp to a suspended viewing platform.  So much for savoring a stroll along the bridge.  It’s more like hurry up and get to a retreat.

  • Sean MacGowan

    So, I went to the meetings and talked to the teams.  I cycle a lot, and regardless of opinions on aesthetics, the PB and AECOM proposals have ill-conceived pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure.  

    PB’s larger renderings show a wide shared-use pedestrian/bicycle promenade.  Some people do not mind shared-use space.  Another poster has commented elsewhere that a center shared-used promenade works on the Brooklyn Bridge.  It very well may.  Nevertheless, there is a big difference between the Brooklyn Bridge and the PB proposal.  The Brooklyn Bridge’s pedestrian/bicycle path varies between 10 and 16 feet wide.  The PB proposal has numerous sections as narrow as 6 feet for two-way, shared-use traffic, both on the deck and on the ramp to the “nest.”  The ramp to the river stays narrow and includes u-turns! 

    AECOM’s proposal shows physically separated bike and pedestrian paths on the viaduct’s deck.  However, the lower “catwalk” is for shared-use, two-way traffic and similarly 6 feet wide with u-turns at the ends.  Large radii turns are more stable for cyclists, and six feet is too narrow for shared-use.  When cyclists and pedestrians must share infrastructure, the space shouldn’t have pinch points that unnecessarily force contact.    If one of these designs is chosen, I hope they do refinements that better consider cyclists interacting with pedestrians.

  • Tigresalcedo007

    If you care about tax dollars going down the toilet, then pick HNTB.   That concept is going to be more than what they are saying.

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