The Clock Approaches Midnight for the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge

Plans for the Figueroa Landbridge are on life support as the City Council and Mayor allow a flawed estimate from the Bureau of Engineering to scare them away from not demolishing the current Figueroa-Riverside Bridge.
Plans for the Figueroa Landbridge are on life support as the City Council and Mayor allow a flawed estimate from the Bureau of Engineering to scare them away from not demolishing the current Riverside-Figueroa Bridge.

It was just over two years ago that I first heard that the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge over the L.A. River was doomed for demolition to make way for a newer version that would be built right next door. Despite its historic designation, it is the only mixed concrete and steel truss bridge crossing the L.A. River, I was resigned to seeing it go and just quietly said goodbye. The bridge was built in the 1920’s and rebuilt in the 1930’s, and it seemed it was just time for the bridge to go.

The demolition is planned to occur sometime in the Spring of 2014.

This summer, at the 11th hour, a plan to save and better the bridge emerged. Architects at RAC Design Build showed a preliminary design where a public park and bicycle and pedestrian path would be built around one section of the steel span built by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers in 1939 after a landslide badly damaged the bridge. The full report prepared for free by RAC Design Build can be found here.

Enthusiasm for the plan, which was named the Figueroa Landbridge, grew until a report by the city’s Bureau of Engineering said the design would cost nearly $5 million more than the $43 million set aside in federal funds for the new bridge project.

The City Council refused to set aside $64,000 for a real feasibility study, even after it was revealed that the estimate was inflated for several reasons, not the least of which was the claim that cranes wouldn’t be able to access the river channel even though cranes were doing just that for the construction of the new bridge.

In an article in this week’s Architect News, RAC Design Build architect Kevin Mulachy and principal Rick Cortez are pushing the plan again as time is running out for the City Council to make a move to save the bridge. A petition at has attracted 367 signers at the time of publication. But so far the petition has made enough noise to attract support from city leaders. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, which has made saving and restoring the river a cornerstone of their plans for the city, passed when offered a chance to comment on the bridge plans. Council Member Mitch O’Farrell told Streetsblog they would get back to us yesterday afternoon.

The main stumbling block is the Bureau of Engineering’s high-ball estimate for Figueroa Landbridge, an estimate they concede is probably high, although they’re still sticking to it. Deborah Weintraub, yes the same Deborah Weintraub overseeing the atrocious design plan for the Hyperion Bridge, told the Architect’s Newspaper:

…“we took a very serious look” at RAC’s proposal, and noted that there was no cost manipulation. She said the $4.9 million estimate that the project’s contractor, Flatiron Construction, gave her department was their “first take,” and likely would have changed following a closer look. Any changes to the original plan, she added, would likely not have federal funding, making a change this far into the process more challenging. “The funding implications required close consideration by our policy makers,” she said.  “The cost didn’t justify the benefit.”

I think we’ve already seen what value the Bureau puts in creating public space trying to cross the Los Angeles River so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the “cost didn’t justify the benefit” in their view. However, having learned a lesson that working with the Bureau isn’t the best way to move progressive projects, Mulachy and Cortez are trying to take their case directly to City Hall.

If nobody steps up, the demolition of the bridge will occur sometime in the next six months, and another opportunity will be lost. Things are quiet in City Hall on this issue, but sometimes it only takes one voice to make a loud difference.

UPDATE: To be fair to the Bureau, the new Riverside-Figueroa Bridge does have more space than the current one for bicyclists. This design shows what looks to be a dedicated bike path.riverside fig


  • veronica jauregui

    But wouldn’t it save money to not have to demolish this bridge. This area needs this space for peds and bikes, this is the only connection to Figueroa from the river path.

  • PC

    “Council Member Mitch O’Farrell told Streetsblog they would get back to us yesterday afternoon.”

    Guy’s turning out to be a real champ, isn’t he?

  • I actually love O’Farrell’s press people. I think we’re just catching them off guard with some of the questions. To give him the benefit of the doubt, he wasn’t in office when the designs went to Council the first time and he is coming /did come around on Hyperion.

  • The BoE drawing does show some bicycle access on the new bridge, better than what exists now. I’ll find the image and put it in the article.

  • Ray Cruz

    Aerial Tramway to Elysian Park Point Grandview – Concept

    From the end of the old Figueroa Street bridge in Los
    Angeles (slated for demolition) you can see looking south the top of Elysian
    Park Point Grandview. This concept proposal would be to build an Aerial Tramway
    from the old Figueroa Street bridge to the top of the Elysian Park hill at
    Point Grandview.

    The tramway would allow visitors to easily ascend to the
    beautiful resources of Elysian Park and to enjoy several splendid views of the
    Los Angeles River and other parts of the city.
    Tramcars should be designed to accommodate bicycles, wheel chairs and
    people (of all sizes and shapes).

    Point Grandview is a hidden gem in Elysian Park Los Angeles.
    Although I’ve lived in the Northeast part of Los Angeles nearly all my life,
    and have frequented this large park many times, not until this year (2013) did
    I stumble upon Point Grandview while looking for a point to take photographs of
    the new Figueroa-Riverside Drive bridge currently under construction
    (construction site immediately below Point Grandview). Other notable view
    points include Angel’s Point and Buena Vista Point.

    Looking up from Figueroa Street you can see the palm trees
    at the top of the hill that provide a signature for Point Grandview. Most
    people know of Elysian Park because of the Dodger Stadium and the Los Angeles
    Police Academy that are located in or by this park. There are thousands of
    people every week who also enjoy its many picnic areas and hiking trails, as
    well as a few tennis courts, a golf course and other recreational amenities.

    The concept perspective is that people who are endeavoring
    to enjoy the natural scenes of the Los Angeles River should also have easy
    access to the adjoining natural views and amenities of Elysian Park. Currently
    the artificial constructions of roads, freeways and river embankments prevent
    this from happening. The steep cliffs surrounding the north side of Elysian
    Park also present a natural barrier. How
    can you get to Elysian Park from the Los Angeles River on foot? Without a
    tramway of some sort it remains nearly impossible. And yet the two are only a stone’s throw

    Before we demolish the old Figueroa Street bridge, we should
    consider this proposal. Although it is possible that a tramway could be
    constructed from other points along the way, this may be the most proximate and
    feasible point.

    One model of a tramway to consider is the Palm Springs
    Aerial Tramway that connects Palm Springs to the top of the San Jacinto

    As this concept evolves, there should also be transportation
    resources to connect the tramway with the L A Metro Gold Line. For example, a special shuttle bus could route
    traffic from the Lincoln Heights Cypress Park Station directly to the tramway,
    only a few blocks away. From the top of
    the tramway at Point Grandview other shuttle buses may tour the many scenic vistas
    of Elysian Park and points of interest including the adjacent Dodger Stadium. Riders should be encouraged to exit the bus
    at any bus stop to enjoy the scene and catch the next shuttle in either
    direction with a day pass. Various
    amenities and comfort stations should also be available, as well as tourist
    centers and shops.

    Photos I’ve taken from Point Grandview and Buena Vista Point
    can be seen here:


    Mt. Washington, Los Angeles

  • Cypress Park

    Keeping the bridge and using it as the Cypress Park/Elysian Valley Farmers Community Market and other amazing projects is economically viable. The general area is going through an intensive transformation and these types of planning are key to keeping a proactive neighborhood. Just imagine the hundreds of families in the are working together in a general community market and the possibilities of gang reduction activities and most importantly community ownership. Hopefully things turnout in the right direction and we are able to see PROGRESSIVE for everyone.

  • Steven Appleton

    An even better place for the Farmers Market would be the older historical colonnade from 1928 that’s buried in the later 1939 section of the old bridge. Take down the 1939 section and parkland, parking options and colonnade for public use are revealed.

  • Steven Appleton

    I also want to add that detailed examination of the old bridge reveals that a major portion of it has been temporarily shored on blocks for over two years. The land bridge proposal would require substantial and costly reconstruction on both sides of the river—it is not a budget neutral proposal at all. In reality this can hardly be considered a “reuse.”


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