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City Considers Replacing the Crumbling 6th Street Bridge

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The days of the iconic, double-arched 6th Street bridge that stretches across the Los Angeles River are numbered. Now the city council is trying to figure out how to replace the bridge built in 1932 — and whether to shut it down before an earthquake does the job for them.

Repairing the bridge is not an option. Back in 2002, engineers diagnosed it with alkali silica reaction — a fatal flaw that means the bridge is producing a gel that ruptures the concrete, according to the Los Angeles Times. Replacing the bridge with an exact replica isn't an option either: it would cost more than $100 million (and they're planning on spending less than half of that).

So now the city council is weighing into an aesthetic debate. If the city goes with another wider, double-arched model, they're worried it will look like a Disney-fied version of the original. If the city commissions a newer, flashier bridge, it might look out of place with the other bridges that cross the river. The Board of Public Works is pushing for a cable design, while the Cultural Heritage Commission is pushing for the design to include the steel arches and the current bridge's Art Deco and Streamline Moderne features.

The debate isn't all about aesthetics. Of course, cost is an issue and the city council is worried about the federal and state government's paying the city back for its share. And there is real danger, too, in letting the bridge go for too long. The bridge, which bears more than 13,000 vehicle trips in a day, has a whopping 70 percent probability of collapsing during a magnitude 7 earthquake, according to the Times.

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"If it could collapse in an earthquake, and we know there's a decent chance of it, why are we not shutting it down?" Councilman Paul Koretz asked this week. "It sure does make me uncomfortable."