City Approves Gift of 21st Century Bridge across the L.A. River

Current design proposal for North Atwater Multimodal Bridge, which may still be subject to tweaks and small changes, according to Jennifer Samson
Current design proposal for North Atwater Multimodal Bridge, which may still be subject to tweaks and small changes, according to Jennifer Samson

When the North Atwater Bridge is built sometime in 2013, it would be the first bridge to cross the historic river in the 21st century, which may explain its futuristic Calatrave-esque design.

The City Council meeting on May 22 adopted a motion to accept the multimodal, cable-stay bridge across the Los Angeles River from the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC), a non-profit that acts as a developer for revitalization projects along the river.

"We hit a big milestone with the council motion adoption. That has made the bridge a 100 percent reality because now the city is on board," said LARRC project manager Jennifer Samson. The motion went through so smoothly because the city only needed $300,000 in funds to cover permit fees and environmental study expenses associated with the development. The question of upkeep costs -- which would have totaled the city $1 million over a period of ten years -- was resolved when the Los Angeles Conservation Corps agreed to take on maintenance of the project for the first decade of operation.

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Once completed, the proposed North Atwater Bridge will span 300 feet across the river connecting Griffith Park to Atwater Village. The bridge is meant to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, who have long been making do by fording the sometimes-treacherous river to get to the trails on the other side.

The project has been a non-starter for about twenty years until landscape architect Mia Lehrer introduced Morton La Kretz, a patron willing to put up the $4 million needed to realize it last April 2011, to LARRC. Since then, some local builders have signed onto the project, including Lehrer of Mia Lehrer + Associates and Buro Happold for design and structural engineering.

The 30-foot wide bridge uses mainly steel and concrete, topped with a wooden deck. The bridge's distinctive 200-foot mast separates the bridge laterally, creating a physical barrier between equestrians on one side and pedestrians and cyclists on the other.

LARRC hopes to break ground by Spring 2013.

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