Global Design Firms To Get Crack at Redesigning Crumbling 6th Street Bridge

6th Street Bridge I Photo by Edwin Beckenbach

The city of Los Angeles will hold an international design competition for a redesign of the 6th Street Bridge, officials announced Thursday. A final decision may lean toward a bridge that complements the aesthetic of other nearby historic viaducts spanning the Los Angeles River.

"The 6th Street Bridge design competition will make sure the new bridge reflects our city's spirit and style," said Mayor Villaraigosa in Boyle Heights, who was joined by Councilmember José Huizar and other bridge and river stakeholders. "As we go through this process, we will make sure the community is informed and involved every step of the way."

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"The bridge design we ultimately select should honor the original history by ushering us into the future with a new iconic bridge," said Huizar, who later that evening tweeted out a message stating the design replacing the "crumbling 6th St. Bridge" should be as "iconic as old bridge and much more."

In November 2011, the L.A. City Council approved the replacement of the 80-year-old bridge, now showing deterioration from Alkali Silica Reaction (ASR), a concrete cancer that makes restoration impossible due to probable infrastructure failure during an earthquake.

The city held a number of community meetings before deciding that replacing the bridge was the most cost-effective alternative. Bridge advocates were split: some hoped for a new bridge replicating the historic 1933 viaduct, but roadway width and alignment, plus safety standards, made that impractical. Others lobbied for a designer bridge bringing something futuristic to the city, but adding to the final cost.

"This international call for qualifications and the design competition will ensure that we end up with the best possible project for the community," said Gary Lee Moore, City Engineer.

The competition is a two-phase process. Project teams from around the globe are invited to submit qualifications, then with community input, Bureau of Engineering and Caltrans will select which teams will move into the competition phase.

The winning firm is scheduled to be chosen by fall.

The final design selection will be made with input from selected engineering, architecture, and urban planning professions, plus nearby residents, business owners, and river advocates, all who will make up a "Design Aesthetic Advisory Committee."

Once it was thought that a new bridge design could encourage recreation, but that idea was scrapped due to cost. That appears to be back on the table.

"This new bridge can complement its historic peers and represent a new era of optimistic growth and change for downtown Los Angeles," said Alex Ward, Chairman of the Friends of the Los Angeles River, adding that the new bridge can become its own cultural and economic landmark "and a route for pedestrian and bicycle access to the River."

Most of estimated $401 million to redesign and construct the 6th Street Bridge is funded by the Federal Highway Bridge Program, with the rest from Prop 1B, local Measure R, and Prop C. The city hopes construction will begin in early 2015 to make the target year for opening 2018.

The actual call for design teams will be posted on the city's website around April 25.

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