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Spring Street Bridge Bike Lanes Delayed – Again

The North Spring Street Bridge yesterday: no bike lanes. Cyclist rides in the area striped off for construction that hasn’t taken place for months. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

The city of L.A. missed its own anticipated completion date for installing new protected bike lanes on the North Spring Street Bridge. The project is now nearly three years late, leading to speculation that the local City Councilmember, Gil Cedillo, may be impeding city staff from completing the project - all the while keeping a no-work construction site in place that is slowing down drivers and endangering cyclists.

In August 2018, the Chief Deputy City Engineer stated that the bike lanes were anticipated to be completed in six months, with the completion of the second phase of the bridge project (demolition of a hundred year old building to reconfigure intersections essentially to facilitate more car traffic.) Despite internal communications, dated October 2020, stating that striping could proceed "next week," lane installation was stuck in limbo pending approval of additional scope (reinforcing building walls next to the demolition site.) That scope was approved in April. At the time, it was anticipated that all the construction, including installing the protected bike lanes, would be completed by June 30. But since at least April, there are no signs that any construction work is proceeding at the site. For months, the city has left bridge lanes - for cars and bikes - blocked off and unfinished, while no construction has taken place.

North Spring Street Bridge protected bike lane rendering - via BOE
North Spring Street Bridge protected bike lane rendering - via BOE
North Spring Street Bridge protected bike lane rendering - via BOE

In mid-July, the city Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering quietly updated the anticipated completion date (on the online Project Information Report), changing it from June to October 15, 2021. Yesterday Streetsblog emailed the BOE requesting clarification regarding the reason for the delay, but didn't receive a response.

One mobility advocate, who declined to go on record, blamed the years of delays on the area's City Councilmember: Gil Cedillo.

Cedillo has a history of being anti-bike, including canceling new bike lane projects in his district and opposing the city's multi-modal Mobility Plan. The Spring Street Bridge project scope - including bikes as part of the stated purpose for widening the bridge - was approved by the full City Council in 2011, prior to Cedillo taking office. Cedillo cannot unilaterally override this approval; that would take another City Council approval, including re-opening the project's environmental review process. Cedillo, it appears, does have the ability to delay project completion - for years now.

What's strange about all this is that, apparently to spite cyclists, the current delays - likely attributable to Cedillo - are not only endangering cyclists, but are also taking capacity away from drivers. During "construction" the bridge has been narrowed to one lane for drivers headed toward downtown. It sure looks like, to hold to his anti-bike agenda, Cedillo is willing to spite drivers, too.

So, the no-construction Spring Street Bridge construction site has, for months and now years, as a sort of monument to one aspect of the city's dysfunction. Councilmembers act as tiny despots, overriding even modest steps toward making streets safer and more convenient for bicycling, walking, and transit. Neither Mayor Eric Garcetti nor city department staff are willing to override local councilmembers. Not even where, in rare cases like Spring Street, the city is legally obligated to build the project approved.

There is one small thread of hope toward ending the current impasse: a cyclist-initiated lawsuit, mentioned in earlier SBLA coverage. In this instance, if the city has failed to comply with environmental law, a judge could get the city to finish the project scope - as approved a decade ago. But lawsuits are expensive - and can take a long time, too.

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