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"Novel Plan" Would Have Double-Decked Broadway, Added Moving Sidewalk

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, January 23, 2009, at 10:11AM
1922 Plan to Double-Deck Broadway Los Angeles Times, 8/6/1922

The answer to Broadway's 1922 traffic woes? A subway for streetcars, underground truck lanes and a pair of elevated moving walkways would have relieved congestion on Los Angeles' main thoroughfare according to a plan proposed by engineer Victor Falkenau.

The plan was one of a handful of fantastic schemes proposed by Falkenau, a Chicago builder who seems to have entirely enamored the Los Angeles Times' editors.

The linchpin of Falkenau's Broadway plan would have been a pair of elevated sidewalks. Sixteen feet wide, they would have included an eight-foot stationary section and an eight-foot moving sidewalk traveling at three miles per hour. A trip on the moving walk would have cost three cents, with entrances and ticket-takers placed every three hundred feet.

In a self-written article that ran on August 6, 1922, Falkenau explained that the walk would have a capacity for 40,000 pedestrians. It would have started at the Broadway tunnel (roughly Temple street) and run all the way to 10th (now Olympic) before looping back around.

On the ground-floor sidewalk, "comfort stations for men and women should be installed in each block with custodians." Escalators that could carry 4,000 people per hour would take pedestrians from the ground to the elevated walk.

Underneath would run truck lanes, a subway for streetcars, utility corridors, a new sewer and pressurized fire mains.

The Broadway plan wasn't Falkenau's only great idea for Los Angeles.

In October of 1922, Falkenau proposed a new high-pressure water system to fire fires. The system would pump sea water from Long Beach, storing the salt water in a 500,000 gallon cistern before pressurizing it to send it to hydrants. Costs were estimated at roughly $3.5 million.

In July of 1923, he proposed a canal that would run from the harbor to 33rd street, carrying barges full of goods offloaded from arriving ships. According to the Times, "Mr. Falkenau is an authority on ports and shipping. He was a former ship builder and during the Roosevelt administration he was appointed by the President to make an inspection tour of all the principal ports of the world."

Nor was he just a man of ideas. In April of 1922, Falkenau rescued actress Mabel Normand when her car started rolling toward a cliff near her home.

Unfortunately, Falkenau's story has a sad ending. On March 12, 1933, the then 74-year-old was fatally struck by a sedan driven by Ms. Ada Mae Brooks, former president of the California Kindergarden Teachers' Association.

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