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Historic Recreation or Modern Monument: Design for 6th Street Viaduct Still Up for Debate

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, November 01, 2011, at 11:43PM
6th Street Viaduct Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

The 6th Street Viaduct is one of a dozen historic bridges that cross the L.A. River as it passes through Downtown. The dual-arch structure is the longest of the group, and has been used in countless television shows and films.

In the five years that the fate of the 6th Street Viaduct has been actively discussed, one question has consistently brought split opinions every time it has come up: If the historic bridge must be rebuilt, should the original 1932 design be recreated, or should a new, modern monument be created in its place?

The city's design team has tended to side with the latter option, presenting an "extradosed" bridge design as its preferred replacement.

Preservationists have largely argued for recreation, asking for a replica of the original's tight column spacing and dual river arch.

The city's Cultural Heritage Commission will again take up the question on Thursday, two years after the body was split on the exact same issue.

Signs indicate the commission still isn't willing to give in on losing the structure. A draft letter prepared for the commission by the city's Office of Historic Resources says that the loss of the 6th Street structure would "result in the irreparable loss of a Historic Cultural Monument and a major blow to the City’s cherished collection of historic Los Angeles River bridges."

If the bridge must be rebuilt, though, the letter asks that it be replaced intact in a way that would allow it to keep its historic designation, just as the Hollywood sign was in the 1970's.

That option may simply not be possible. The railroads will have a strong say in any proposal which replaces the columns that currently give a less-than-standard clearance for tracks along the L.A. River. Their rights trump auto rights, and in earlier meetings project staff told attendees that they did not expect the railroads to allow any new columns to be built.

The city hopes to bring the replacement project to City Council this morning for environmental certification. That process will involve selecting a preferred alternative for the bridge. The $401 million budget includes $365.5 in federal funds, $29.7 million in state Proposition B funds, $5.6 million from the city and $0.2 million from other state sources.

Draft Letter


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