Politics

Conflict arises over plans for new Hyperion Bridge

The Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges was completed in 1929 as a memorial to World War I veterans. In all six bridges span the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5.
The Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges was completed in 1929 as a memorial to World War I veterans. In all six bridges span the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

Residents won an important skirmish Wednesday in a battle over refurbishing a historic bridge over the Los Angeles River, convincing two city councilmen not to accept a city plan that calls for a single sidewalk. The fight comes amid the city's efforts to improve walkability.

City planners had recommended a sidewalk on just one side of the Hyperion Ave. bridge as part of its $50 million refurbishment for seismic safety. The complex six-part series of bridges was built in 1929 and spans Interstate 5, the river, a couple of freeway ramps and Riverside Drive.

City planners said the historic bridge would have to lose a lane of traffic to accommodate an additional sidewalk.

At a public meeting Wednesday, advocates of walkable streets insisted that sidewalks on both sides of the bridge would be safer, and better comply with Vision Zero  — an ambitious goal by the city's Department of Transportation to reduce L.A.'s walking and cyclist deaths to zero by 2025.

"State which plan the DOT thinks is safest? Which plan will lead to the Vision Zero success?" Los Angeles resident Robert Trowbridge asked.

Some of the residents said school children and other walkers would choose to walk in the planned bike lanes, rather than detour to a crosswalk to get to the sidewalk.

Although several individuals from both sides of the river called for two sidewalks, the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council had voted to favor a single-sidewalk option.  The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council  and Silver Lake Neighborhood Council want sidewalks on both sides of Hyperion according to documents filed with the city.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who chairs the council's public works committee, said he struggled to decide between the city engineer's plan and the preferences of the residents, so he chose neither. Councilman Curren Price Jr. voted with him.

Decisions made by council committees are seldom reversed by the full council, but in passing on the project without a recommendation, the full City Council will decide how the bridge is to be rebuilt: one sidewalk or two. The plan also calls for two bike lanes.

The DOT's Vision Zero strategic goal is not a citywide initiative, spokesman Bruce Gillman said. Other U.S. cities, including Chicago, also pursue the elimination of walker and cyclist traffic deaths.

The bridge is formally known as the Glendale Hyperion complex of bridges. It crosses Interstate 5, the L.A. River and a couple of other streets. It has no bike lanes, and very limited sidewalks.

The bridge needs to be made earthquake safe, and the federal government has offered $50 million for the work. The project has been in planning since 2002.

Clarification: This story has been updated to indicate the preferences of three neighborhood councils for and against the single-sidewalk option.