The North Spring Street Bridge connects the Los Angeles State Historic Park to the community of Lincoln Heights by spanning the Los Angeles River and adjacent rail lines. Built in 1928, the bridge was one of eleven LA River bridges declared a Historic Cultural Monument by the city in 2008. Los Angeles' Bureau of Engineering in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation is proposing to retrofit and widened the existing bridge to “eliminate existing and geometrical design deficiencies and correct existing seismic vulnerability issues.” In addition, the widening project would allow for wider sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the bridge while maintaining four lanes for vehicle traffic. Currently the bridge is 50 feet wide with one narrow sidewalk on the north side. The city's proposal would widen the bridge 20 feet in each direction, creating a 90 foot wide bridge. The project has been on the board for over four years, but was accelerated in the summer of 2010 due to a deadline relevant to the city's attempt to receive state and federal funding.
Opposition to the project has come primarily from historic preservationists. They warn the widening will greatly diminish the bridge's historic importance and force the city to remove the bridge's Historic-Cultural Monument status. The Bureau of Engineering has cited earthquake concerns as one reason for the development, but critics have noted the bridge was retrofitted for earthquake safety in 1992. A popular alternative proposed by preservationists is the construction of a separate pedestrian and bicycle bridge. However, the Bureau of Engineering has stated that a separate bridge would not be eligible for same state and federal funding.
Despite the proposed bike lanes, at least one cycling advocate has criticized the project as bicycle unfriendly. Joe Linton argues bringing the bridge up to highway standards will lead to increased vehicle speeds, creating a more dangerous environment for cyclists and pedestrians. Another proposed alternative to the widening project is the reduction of vehicle traffic lanes.
Proponents of the project contend the current bridge is dangerous and unpleasant for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. In addition to the wider sidewalks and bike lanes, the new bridge would provide better visibility and a straighter road for vehicles. A center median proposed by the project would presumably make the road safer by reducing the likelihood of head-on collisions. The project also proposes to reconfigure three intersections on the west side of the bridge that are viewed as substandard and awkward. The most drastic change is proposed at North Spring Street and Wilhardt Street, where the plan calls for the destruction of a building in order to extend Wilhardt through to Baker Street. This new intersection would host a traffic light.
Visually, the bridge most significant to the Los Angeles State History Park is the historic North Broadway Bridge. However, due to the lack of connectivity between the park and North Broadway, the North Spring Street Bridge is the connection between the park and the communities on the east side of the river. All parties agree the bridge needs to serve as a safe and inviting route for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles. The disagreement is over the historic value of the bridge and the effects of the proposed redesign.
Prepared by Taylor Fitz-Gibbon; Last Updated: February 2011