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Design team: New 6th Street Viaduct will be 'more than just a bridge'

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, November 06, 2012, at 02:48PM
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The 6th Street Bridge will be demolished and replaced with an entirely new bridge.

As the 6th Street Viaduct inches closer to its demolition date, designers and city officials are championing the structure that's replacing it as being a catalyst for revitalization and much "more than just a bridge."

"It's all about the communities," said Gene Bougdanos, the L.A. vice president of design firm HNTB. "It's about access for not only the vehicles, but for bicycles and pedestrians -- and to provide a backdrop for some of the amenities that we showed in our concept."

Renderings for the new structure include highlighting the L.A. River and creating recreation spaces as well as sports courts underneath the bridge. A skate park and an outdoor plaza, that can host cafes, live music or public art is also being considered for the Arts District side of the structure.

Designers say they want the bridge to be more pedestrian friendly, with a separated walkway and ramps from the ground up to the top of the bridge to help cyclists gain access as well. The new structure will be modern and forward-looking, said Bougdanos, but also pay homage to its past by using arches as its central theme; the current bridge, built in 1933, is bordered by them.

“From the beginning we viewed the replacement of the 6th Street viaduct as a major responsibility as well as if we were to be selected, it would be a huge honor," said Bougdanos. "Because of its iconic nature in the city of LA and that it’s revered, and is part of so much of the history of this part of the city.”

The 6th Street Bridge is one of L.A.'s most famous bridges, having made numerous appearances in TV shows, film shoots and commercials. But because of a chemical condition described as "concrete cancer," the structure is slowly crumbling from the inside and is at great risk of collapse during an earthquake.

After exploring retrofit options, the City decided the only realistic option would be to demolish and replace the bridge.

"That's one thing we still need to develop is a specific demolition plan," said Alfred Mata, the project manager for the City.

He said there will most likely not be any large, cinematic explosions, but rather the bridge will come down piece by piece, using a type of shield to protect surrounding neighborhoods from falling debris. Mata said they will aim to minimize street closures and maintain public access.

Bougdanos' firm HNTB is no stranger to taking on massive projects like this one -- they recently served as the lead design firm on the Carmageddon II project, where the 405 freeway was closed down in order to demolish a portion of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. Bougdanos said a similar strategy could be used for the 6th Street Bridge, temporarily closing streets to make way for demolition.

The 6th Street Bridge project will cost $401 million and construction is expected to begin in 2015. According to HNTB, the project will create almost 5,000 new jobs. The completed bridge is expected to open to the public by 2019.

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