Can LA have a High Line? Off-Ramp for February 22, 2014

UPDATE: Mayor Garcetti won't back Figueroa Landbridge

EnrichLA's Tomas O'Grady stands on the new LA River bridge that will join Figueroa St and Riverside Drive. He and others are trying to get the city to not demolish the historic bridge to the left, but turn it into a version of NYC's High Line, for pedestr

John Rabe

EnrichLA's Tomas O'Grady stands on the new LA River bridge that will join Figueroa St and Riverside Drive. He and others are trying to get the city to not demolish the historic bridge to the left, but turn it into a version of NYC's High Line, for pedestrians and bicyclists.

UPDATE 3/14/14: In an editorial meeting with KPCC this week, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he likes the idea of the land bridge -- "I hate bringing down a bridge. It's a cool idea." -- but there isn't enough density in that neighborhood to make the land bridge project worthwhile. Listen to the audio at left for details.

After Mariano Rivera and any random snowplow driver, the High Line might be the most popular thing in New York City. It's the former elevated rail line that was turned into a park.

(The High Line in Manhattan. Image: Beyond My Ken/Wikipedia Commons)

And New York's High Line has a lot of fans here in LA, many of whom say the same thing could be done with the bridge that connects Figueroa Street with Riverside Drive, at the Confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the LA River.

"It's actually Monument 908," says Tomas O'Grady, who runs EnrichLA, part of the multi-group coalition calling for the old bridge to be repurposed. The coalition includes architect Kevin Mulcahy, Los Angeles Walks, and several neighborhood councils.

"The piece that's over the river is the last remaining steel truss bridge in the city of Los Angeles," O'Grady says, "So, we actually think it's worth saving. There's no reason to take out the old one because the new one is being built just north of the old one."

Here's a diagram from EnrichLA that shows what's being called The Landbridge:

The curving white bridge at the center of the image is the new Figueroa Bridge, currently under construction. The green bridge to the left of it is the old bridge, turned into a foot and bicycle bridge and park.

The LA Bureau of Engineering's Deborah Weintraub told the LA Times it's "very late" to change course, and that it could cost up to $5m over budget, not including the redesign. She told the paper, "We admire the passion of these preservationists. They've put their heart and soul into this campaign, but we're past the point of no return on this project." All in all, Weintraub told KPCC, the city's total investment could be $15m to $25m. "Anything's possible with money," she says, but so far policy hasn't been changed and the funding source hasn't been identified.

To counter the claim that it's too late, O'Grady points to the fact that the old bridge is still standing, is still being used, and he counters that activists like him have been lobbying the city for months but have been rebuffed. He also says he believes the redesign could be paid for out of savings realized by not demolishing the old bridge in April, as scheduled.

(The Figueroa Street Bridge in 1937. No Home Depot, no 5 Freeway, almost no cars!Image: LAPL/Herald-Examiner Collection.)

The new bridge, Weintraub explained to KPCC, is no slouch. There were many meetings with stakeholders in the nearby community, she says, and besides the lanes for cars, "it has very decent pedestrian and bicycle amenities," including a 12-foot wide bike lane, an 8-foot wide pedestrian sidewalk, and three big "Belvedere" bump-outs "to give views up and down the river."

For much more, listen to our Off-Ramp interviews with O'Grady and Weintraub.


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