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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Upgrades Need to be More Than Just About Cars

Cyclists and pedestrian advocates find proposed improvements on the Glendale-Hyperion bridge lacking in the wake of its preliminary environmental impact report release. "This project considered the needs of one user group -- automobile drivers -- first before considering anyone else that might use the bridge, and the freeway-like design standards they chose to use are incompatible with the kinds of improvements that would accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians safely and comfortably," writes Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC).

Bike lanes that appeared in the approved 2010 Bicycle Master Plan are nowhere to be found in the planned improvements. In addition, the new sidewalk would still not be wide enough. "They are consolidating the sidewalks to a single-side in order to have one wider sidewalk rather than two narrow sidewalks. But in doing so, they did not make it safe to get from that single-side sidewalk back to the other side of the street in Atwater Village."

The city's proposed project would cost an estimated $50-million and would go on for three years. It would affect the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue bridge, which is actually made up of six structures: the Waverly Bridge, Hyperion Avenue Viaduct over Riverside Drive, Hyperion Avenue Viaduct over I-5, Hyperion Avenue Viaduct over the Los Angeles River, and the north and southbound Glendale Boulevard bridges over the Los Angeles River.

The complex of bridges connects Atwater Village to Silver Lake and Los Feliz. According to the preliminary environmental report, each bridge requires seismic retrofitting to meet city and state standards. With the upgrade come improvements on traffic circulation and pedestrian safety, which include:

  • An additional center median to physically separate northbound and southbound traffic on Hyperion Avenue viaduct roadway
  • Removing the narrow, east sidewalk on Hyperion Avenue, but widening the west side
  • A new pedestrian crosswalk on the north side of the Hyperion Avenue viaduct
  • Wider Glendale Boulevard bridges
  • Re-aligned I-5 North offramp to Glendale Boulevard for better visibility. The change would also allow left-hand turns onto southbound Glendale Boulevard.
  • Additional access ramp from northbound Glendale Boulevard to the Los Angeles River Bikeway
  • Construction of the Red Car Pedestrian bridge, a new pedestrian footpath downstream of the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, which would connect the bike path on the southwest side of the Los Angeles River to Glendale Boulevard.
  • Installation of a new infiltration basin between the I-5 and the Los Angeles River to capture and treat stormwater runoff from the complex of bridges.
  • Refurbished lighting posts with new LED fixtures

To retain the bridge's historic character, the city would provide replica railings based on the original balustrades, designed by Merrill Butler, that once adorned the bridge. Accidents over the years had damaged the historic railing. "At the end of the project, it would look and feel and would remain unchanged from when the bridges were first built," says Councilman Tom LaBonge in a video explaining the project, "It would look like it did in 1927." In the video, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Councilmen Tom LaBonge and Mitch O'Farrell, all spoke favorably of the planned work.

Though Bruins doesn't deny the positive aspects of the plan, such as better access to the river from Glendale Boulevard, and the construction of the Red Car Pedestrian passage, "[it] just don't get you to Silver Lake, which is what's needed for biking and walking to be viable transportation."

To improve the plans, LACBC is asking the city to consider creating adequate sidewalk space and protected bike lanes that would connect to the bikeway network.

Work is expected to start by 2016 on the bridge. Plans are up for public comment through October 11, Friday.

Read the whole report here. Comments can be sent to Tami Podesta, Branch Chief at Tami.Podesta@dot.ca.gov.

hyperion-under-waverly.png and hyperion-viaduct.png - LACBC proposed improvements. Rendering courtesy of LACBC.

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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