Change Order Shows Cedillo Yanked Approved Spring Street Bridge Bike Lanes

The city has failed to complete the North Spring Street Bridge project as approved, due to Councilmember Cedillo removing bike lanes from the construction contract. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog
The city has failed to complete the North Spring Street Bridge project as approved, due to Councilmember Cedillo removing bike lanes from the construction contract. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Newly revealed documents show that L.A. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo is responsible for removing approved bike lanes from the city’s $50 million widening of the North Spring Street Bridge. The lanes were due to open in 2018, then in 2021, but now appear to be indefinitely delayed – effectively canceled. The change may be illegal under the California Environmental Quality Act, and could jeopardize federal grant monies the city received to improve the bridge’s safety and mobility for pedestrians and cyclists.

The North Spring Street Bridge (officially the North Spring Street Viaduct) is located just north of downtown Los Angeles, spanning the L.A. River, connecting Lincoln Heights and Chinatown.

Map of the North Spring Street Bridge project
Map of the North Spring Street Bridge project – two phases shown

Below is a timeline of the project history:

  • 2011: After a contentious environmental review process, the L.A. City Council approved environmental documents specifying that a retrofitted North Spring Street Bridge would include bike lanes. The city received federal funding for the bridge project, specifically for purposes including enhancing pedestrian and bike safety and mobility.
  • 2013: Gil Cedillo was elected to represent City Council District 1, replacing Ed Reyes. Reyes had been relatively pro-bike; Cedillo has been strongly against CD1 bike facilities, including voting against the city’s multi-modal mobility plan.
  • 2018: The city’s Bureau of Engineering (BOE) completed construction on the retrofitted N. Spring Street Bridge, re-opening the widened bridge with no bike lanes. At that time, BOE’s Deputy City Engineer Deborah Weintraub stated that the bike lanes had been delayed “approximately 6 months” for the second phase of construction (reconfiguring Wilhardt Street immediately southwest of the bridge.)
  • 2020: Reconfiguration of Wilhardt Street (phase two) construction was completed in 2020 (though some added scope – reinforcing an adjacent building wall – is still pending.) In late October 2020, the project contractor stated that they intended to stripe bike lanes “next week.”
  • April 2021: When bike lanes were still missing, SBLA inquired to the BOE. Their spokesperson Mary Nemick responded that the second phase, including striping bike lanes, was “scheduled to be completed soon.” On-the-ground roadway construction had finished in 2020, and city documents showed an expected completion date of June 30, 2021.
  • August 2021: The city’s anticipated completion date came and went with no bike lanes, and no evidence of any construction still underway. From August through December 2021, Streetsblog emailed Nemick three more times requesting project updates, and received polite responses with no further project information, no explanation of delays, no anticipated timetable.

This week, Streetsblog received project documents obtained under a public records request. A June 2021 change order clarifies that, as suspected, Councilmember Cedillo had the bike lanes removed from the project’s construction contract.

Detail of North Spring Street Bridge change order
Detail of North Spring Street Bridge June 2021 change order

The change order reads “The council office has safety concerns over the lack of continuity of bicycle lanes along Spring Street [north and south of the bridge] …Therefore final restoration signing and striping will be deleted from this contract and addressed by LADOT [Department of Transportation] at a later time.” Cedillo previously cited safety concerns when he killed safety improvements slated for North Figueroa Street.

Outright killing the North Spring Street Bridge bike lanes (changing the City Council-approved project scope) would legally obligate the city to re-open its CEQA project design process. Eliminating the bicycle safety component of the project could also force the city to pay back the Federal Highway Administration’s portion of the $50 million bridge retrofit cost.

The impasse between Cedillo and the city’s Bureau of Engineering has resulted in more than a year of ongoing slighting of people who use Spring Street. Despite roadway construction having concluded in 2020, one southwest-bound lane of traffic remains blocked off right now.

The right southwest-bound lane of North Spring Street has been closed for more than two years after roadway construction was completed, inconeniencing drivers and endangering cyclists
The right southwest-bound lane of North Spring Street has been unnecessarily closed for more a year after roadway construction was completed, inconveniencing drivers and endangering cyclists. February 2021 Google Street View

To this day, in the right lane, the city has left in place a construction closure that forces cyclists into car traffic, and that squeezes two lanes of car traffic into one lane. This despite no construction activity whatsoever there for more than a year.

Streetsblog requested clarification of project delays and timelines, via email to the city’s Bureau of Engineering, Department of Transportation, and the offices of Councilmember Cedillo and Mayor Eric Garcetti, but did not receive any responses at press time.

Added 1/12 5 p.m.: Shortly after publication, Streetsblog received the following response from Cedillo’s Communications Director Conrado TerrazasCross: 

Our council office has expressed concerns to BOE and LADOT about inadequate safety measures for bicyclists, pedestrians, and vehicle drivers along the bridge and the surrounding areas. We hope to review plans from departments and consider them in the context of overall safety and traffic along the corridor and the surrounding areas where a school, a park, and low-income housing are impacted by street safety concerns.

 

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