L.A. City Hosts Invitation-Only Grand Opening of New Elysian Valley Bike/Ped Bridge

Elysian Valley's new Taylor Yard walk/bike bridge - under construction in 2021. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Elysian Valley's new Taylor Yard walk/bike bridge - under construction in 2021. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, invited attendees celebrated the grand opening of a new walk/bike bridge over the Los Angeles River. The bridge expands Northeast Los Angeles communities’ access to green transportation and to nature.

ElysianValleyBridgeMap
Location of new Elysian Valley L.A. River bridge. Base via Google Maps

The new walk/bike bridge extends over the L.A. River in the L.A. City neighborhood of Elysian Valley, also known as Frogtown. On the south/Frogtown side, the bridge is located just upstream of Dorris Place. On the north/Cypress Park side, cyclists and pedestrians can now connect to river path via a paved sidewalk path along an access road from San Fernando Road (near Elm Street and along Rio de Los Angeles State Park).

For decades, the nicest, most natural L.A. River area – called the Glendale Narrows – has been difficult to access from the northeast Los Angeles communities of Cypress Park and Glassell Park. Between these communities and the river sits Taylor Yard, formerly a 248-acre railroad yard with nearly three miles of river frontage.

Taylor Yard in 1947 - photo via The River Project.
Taylor Yard in 1947 – photo via The River Project. The view is looking east from near the present-day 2 Freeway. San Fernando Road is on the left. The new bike/ped bridge location is in the upper right.

In its heyday, more than 10,000 workers were employed at Taylor Yard, many of whom commuted by foot from Cypress Park, Glassell Park, and Elysian Valley. The yard’s owner, Southern Pacific, relocated its uses to West Colton, leaving the site largely vacant by the 1990s. Sixty-plus years of locomotive engine maintenance did leave behind contaminated soils. The city of Los Angeles is working with the federal Army Corps of Engineers and other partners to restore habitat in much of Taylor Yard. The new bridge dovetails with that large-scale river project.

When Metro re-industrialized the downstream end of Taylor Yard, siting a Metrolink yard there, community groups sued Metro for not following environmental law. In a 1992 settlement Metro agreed to pay for several community benefits, including a pedestrian bridge. For decades, the promised bridge project suffered from false starts. Ultimately Metro paid for the $25 million dollar bridge, which was built by L.A. City’s Public Works Department’s Bureau of Engineering.

Bridge construction broke ground in June 2019, and the bridge’s open metal frame structure has appeared nearly complete since mid-2020.

Late last Friday, Streetsblog received a tip that this morning’s bridge opening ceremonies were taking place – by invitation only. The invitation instructs invitees to drive to the event. Streetsblog, despite reporting on this project for years, did not receive an invitation.

Elysian Valley Taylor Yard Bridge opening flier
Elysian Valley Taylor Yard Bridge opening flier. “Drive toward the L.A. River”

Unlike many openings hosted by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the event does not appear to have been livestreamed.

Streetsblog arrived at the event by bicycle and joined a handful of attendees stuck on the Elysian Valley side of the bridge while Garcetti and city councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Gil Cedillo spoke on the other side of the river.

Bridge opening attendees stuck on the Frogtown side of the bridge. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Bridge opening attendees stuck on the Frogtown side of the bridge. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Bridge opening speeches taking place on the far side of the river. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Bridge opening speeches taking place on the far side of the river. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Some Elysian Valley residents had received a different invitation for a 9:30 a.m. “Taylor Yards [sic] Bridge” opening on their side of the river with “bikes and pedestrians welcome.” (No word on whether those bikes’ bicyclists were welcome.) Streetsblog did not receive that invitation, either.

Streetsblog waited for a while, while speeches could be heard (and police cars seen) in the distance, but nothing happened on the Elysian Valley side of the bridge.

From elected officials’ photos posted to social media, they ultimately did a ribbon-cutting on the south side of the bridge, some time after 10 a.m. when this Streetsblog editor had already left the premises.

Cedillo and O’Farrell have histories of being hostile to bicyclists. O’Farrell’s bike antipathy has been more subtle, other than his notoriously snide anti-bike safety tweet in 2018. Cedillo’s anti-bike stance has been more overt. Both have canceled approved bike safety projects in their districts: Cedillo on North Figueroa Street and on the North Spring Street Bridge, and both colluded on the cancelling of a Temple Street road diet. Both are Democrat incumbents facing elections this year, with challengers to their ideological left. It is a sad state of affairs that it now appears that they fear allowing the public – including the press and those pesky cyclists – to celebrate the opening of a really great thing they have done for bicycling in L.A.

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