Gold Line Foothill Extension Photo Tour: Iconic Gold Line Freeway Bridge

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The recently completed Gold Line Bridge over the 210 Freeway. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

In this third installment of our Foothill Gold Line photo tour series, we explore the Gold Line Foothill Extension’s iconic bridge over the 210 Freeway, as well as a closer look at the line’s other bridges.

Recently, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Aviv Kleinman joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold Line Phase II under construction in the San Gabriel Valley. We joined Albert Ho, head of Media Relations for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, and Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, the contractors building the project. Part 1 of the series documented the rail corridor and stationsPart 2 highlighted the Maintenance and Operations yard under construction in Monrovia.

For those just joining us, the Gold Line is a 19.7 mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena via Union Station in Downtown L.A. The line currently serves 21 stations, and is operated by Metro. The Gold Line Foothill Extension will extend from its current Sierra Madre Villa terminus east into the city of Azusa. The new 11.3-mile extension includes 6 new stations, serving five cities directly. It is proposed to transform the San Gabriel Valley entirely. Once bounded by distress of being caught in freeway gridlock, San Gabriel Valley residents will now have the freedom to commute by rail into Downtown L.A., and endless locations from there, by using the new Gold Line extension.

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The bridge spans 584-linear-feet diagonally across the Eastbound 210 Freeway. Notice the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading westbound on the freeway. I predict that one of the most effective marketing tools for increasing Gold Line ridership will be the simple frustration drivers feel when they are stuck on the freeway while watching the sleek new trains travelling at 55 mph towards Downtown LA. All photos, except where noted: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Gold Line bridge, completed in 2012, was built to replace the previous flyover bridge used by the Santa Fe railroad to cross over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway. The Gold Line tracks run 4.1 miles along the median of the 210 before crossing the bridge into the city of Arcadia, heading southeast towards the downtown Arcadia station. 

According to the Construction authority, the bridge was completed “on-time and on-budget” in December of 2012. The total cost was $18.6 million.

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The bridge utilizes a ballastless track configuration, with the rails fastened directly to molded concrete slabs. This system is used because it lowers weight stresses on the bridge and it incurs lower maintenance costs. It also prevents vehicles from driving across the bridge. Pictured here, the tracks switch from a conventional concrete rail-tie configuration in the foreground, to the ballastless system as they enter the bridge.
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A photo taken at track level, highlighting the balllastless track system. The tracks are elevated about 1.5 feet above the bridge surface. When the trains start running, hopefully nobody will be seeing the tracks from this perspective.

The bridge was designed by the artist Andrew Leicester. Leicester envisioned the bridge as “a memorable expression of the community, past and present.” The bridge’s design includes homages to the local culture, native wildlife, and, most notably, the Native American roots in the area. The two 25-foot tall, 17-foot diameter sculptural  woven baskets flank the bridge and support it structurally as well as artistically. According to the Construction Authority, the bridge was “built for the same cost as was originally estimated for a typical structure of its make-up.” The bridge won five construction industry awards and is billed as “the largest single public art/transportation infrastructure piece in California.”

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Flanking the span are two concrete forms representing woven baskets, intended to reference the region’s Native American cultural history. The bridge serves as a gateway to drivers entering the Eastern San Gabriel Valley. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority
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The Construction Authority is finishing the eastbound tracks first, following with the westbound tracks afterwards. Meanwhile, the unfinished side serves as a corridor to transport construction equipment back and forth between the freeway median and the track and staging areas south of the freeway. The Authority reopened the previously closed freeway lanes that served as an construction entrance into the median; this leaves the bridge as the only way of entering the construction zone in the median. After the track is laid on both sides of the bridge, only hi-rail equipment (and trains) will be able to access the median.
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Approaching the bridge from the west.
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The bridge was constructed by Skanska USA, but was handed over to Kiewit-Parsons after completion. It will eventually be handed over to Metro when it is ready for service.
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Hey look! A QR code! Let’s take a closer look.
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Bonus points to whoever comments first with the contents enclosed in the QR code.

Below, we take a closer look at the other relatively-utilitarian bridges on the Gold Line Foothill Extension.

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The Gold Line bridge over Palm Drive in the city of Azusa. Rowland informed us that it was most economically feasible to lift the existing freight-rail steel bridge (pictured furthest) and to relocate it a few feet south, as opposed to constructing a brand new bridge in its place. The concrete light rail bridges (the closest two) were constructed from scratch.
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The city of Arcadia opted to design this bridge over Santa Anita Avenue with an art deco style. It was originally planned to be an at-grade crossing, but changed to a grade separation to facilitate smooth car travel on the major thoroughfare below.
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Because of space constraints of the original rail right-of-way, a new bridge had to be constructed for this shared freight-rail and light-rail crossing over Foothill Blvd. in Azusa. The city wanted to maintain the raw character of the original steel freight rail bridge, as opposed to a new concrete bridge.
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A look at the underside of the three spans of the new mixed-use freight and light-rail bridge over Foothill Blvd. in Azusa.
  • Looks like some lovely spaces for murals have been created. Aviv, will you please someday return to these newly constructed/restored bridges after sundown and report on the pedestrian and bicyclist environments the Foothill Extension Construction Authority has left us with?

  • Ikawe
  • Alex Brideau III

    In agreement with one of the photo comments, I’ve always felt that aside from cost, one of the downsides of below-grade rail is that it remains practically invisible to other mode users. Having rail above (or at) grade reminds drivers that transportation alternatives do exist and that SoCal is becoming increasingly more transit friendly.

  • brianmojo

    That deco style bridge is really nice!

  • Roger R.

    Totally agree Alex! I always thought the Purple Line should have been designed to come to the surface for the stretch from the intersection of Wilshire/Santa Monica to Century City, reusing the old Red Car ROW in the center of Santa Monica. Then let it go back underground before turning north under Westwood to get back to Wilshire. Metro told me the up/down would cost more than just boring on underground. But I think the advertising aspect is worth it sometimes–let people SEE the trains wooshing past. Besides, it would have given BH something to really shout about. :)

  • Joe Linton

    Anyone else unimpressed with the big freeway bridge? I don’t think it succeeds at what I like about bridges: place-making. It’s a big expensive gesture I’ll never see because it’s oriented wholly toward drivers, who can get a long look at it when they’re stuck in congestion on the freeway. From what I can tell from the photos, I don’t think I will even be able to see those baskets when I ride that train, or walk or bike in that part of town. I think it would better if transit agencies make their big aesthetic investments targeted toward actual train riders’ experiences.

  • Micky

    Yeah, that deco style bridge looks really handsome. And once everything is all done and cleaned up, a lot of non-locals probably won’t be able to tell the bridge was built in 2014.

    The basket bridge is OK. It’s kind of an ambitious concept and I can appreciate that Skanska had the skills to build it. Not too crazy that it’s a freeway bridge.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Perhaps the designs are targeted toward drivers because drivers are more likely to need something pretty to look at while they’re caught in rush-hour traffic. In the meantime we Metro riders will be whisked over these bridges so quickly we’ll have no time to appreciate their design. :-)

  • Alex Brideau III

    That being said, I’m reminded of Sahra’s recent post about SoCal’s neglected underpasses and wonder if there’s an opportunity here for Metro to enhance the pedestrian friendliness of these underpasses so that they are welcoming to those who walk beneath them. I’m encouraged to see some of these bridges designed in such a fashion that more daylight can reach the roadways below, which is a head and shoulders improvement over freeway underpasses.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    If there were as much effort to do large construction projects for pedestrians and bicycles, as there is for rail and freeways in major U.S. cities, the mode share for walking and bicycling would be much higher.

    Here’s an example of a beautiful new bicycle bridge constructed in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands–a country where major construction is routinely done for bicycles and pedestrians:

    http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-green-connection-in-rotterdam/#comments

    In the U.S. the policy seems to be: “what do we have left over for pedestrians and bicycles?”, rather than making walking and bicycling an integral part of the transportation policy.

    Where is the digging into the hillside to construct a bike path that would connect the San Fernando Valley to Hollywood or the Westside?

    Where are the tunnels and bridges specifically built for bicycles that would get cyclists past the obstacles that are freeways, rivers, railroad tracks and hills in LA? There are few.

    The mid size city of Davis California has 17 bridges and tunnels for bicycles in a city slightly less than 10-miles square. To match that proportion, LA would need to built about 800 bridges and tunnels for bicycles.

  • BC

    It’s also much less uncomfortable for the passenger if you have something to look out at, especially if it’s elevated. In East Coast, MidWest & European cities, one of the biggest complaints about elevated rail is that it blocks the sun. In LA, that would be a bonus.

  • Joe Linton

    and you get cell phone reception!!

  • Except Metro is not building this project and has little control over what the Foothil Construction Authority does. And since the goal of the FCA is to remain “ontime and under budget”, pedestrian and bicycle amenities are going to get only scraps.

  • Aviv Kleinman

    I’ll do my best! I appreciate your attentiveness to my articles!

  • Cameron Novak

    I like the time lapse view under the bridge.

    Our Foothill Parkway Extension isn’t looking that involved just yet… http://coronarealestateagent.com/foothill-parkway-extension-in-corona-funded-construction-begins/

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