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L.A. Conservancy: New Spring Street Bridge Plans Are Better, But…

12:36 PM PDT on May 4, 2011

(The above video was prepared by the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering to explain the project. There will be a public meeting on the North Spring Street Bridge Improvement project on Tuesday, May 10, at 6:00 P.M. at the Lincoln Heights Senior Citizen Center at 2323 Workman Avenue.  For more information, click on the advertisement on the right.  Many of the details that have led to this compromise can be found in our first article on this project.)

The L.A. Conservancy, one of the leading voices opposing the North Spring Street Bridge Improvement Project, has broken its silence on its view of the new designs for the project proposed by the City's Bureau of Engineering (BoE.)  Despite its long-standing opposition to changing the design of the historic structure, it seems the Conservancy is pleased with the efforts the BoE has made to maintain the original design and make needed repairs and upgrades to the bridge.

“We’re encouraged by the direction the Bureau of Engineering is headed,” notes Adrian Scott Fine, the director of advocacy for the L.A. Conservancy.

As we noted last week, the bridge has been a fixture in Downtown Los Angeles since 1927, but in recent years the City has been trying to change the structure by widening it, adding new sidewalks, bike lanes, and extending the mixed-use travel lanes from 9.5 to eleven feet.  The Conservancy has opposed the widening because earlier designs of the bridge would have greatly altered the character of the structure.

After losing a political battle last year, the BoE went back to the drawing board to create two new designs for expanding the bridge.  The first design proposed design widens the south side of the bridge, restripe the lanes to include a bike lane in each direction, widen the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge and add a sidewalk to the south side.  The second design spreads the widening out but has the same basic impact.  The bridge will still have four mixed travel lanes, two new bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

It's the widening of the travel lanes that has created controversy for some transportation reform advocates.  The LACBC has written a letter that could serve as a template for those wishing to weigh in on the bridge.  In addition to bicycle connectivity, widened mixed-use lanes, and the cultural significance of the bridge, their letter can be read here.

Grace David, the Project Manager at the BoE and Tanya Durrell, Principal of Public Relations at BoE, objected to the argument that this project is about increasing car capacity noting that the 11 foot travel lane width is standard for a secondary highway (the street classification for North Spring Street) and they couldn't use state or federal dollars for the project without widening these lanes.  Advocates the wider lanes will lead to faster traffic speeds and thus greater capacity even if there are no additional travel lanes added to the project.

As for the two designs, the Conservancy has a favorite.  As stated on their updated advocacy page for the website, "With the single-sided widening – the Conservancy’s preferred approach of the two options – the current 4-lane bridge would be widened by 21-feet on the south side only to accommodate 5-foot sidewalks, 5-foot bike lanes, and 11-feet wide travel lanes with a 4-foot wide center median."

However, this doesn't mean that the Conservancy has signed-off on the project.  Fine notes that there are still some concerns on how to make a wider bridge continue the historical tradition of the bridge.  "There are creative ideas churning on how to make that step at the Bureau," Fine explains, "The devil is going to be in the details."

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