LA Will Explore Closing 6th Street Bridge To Car Traffic ‘Periodically’
We’re trying to not write about the 6th Street Bridge all the time, but here we are.
The new viaduct connecting Boyle Heights to downtown L.A. has made a lot of headlines in recent weeks, thanks to the small minority of people driving dangerously, attempting risky climbs over fencing and up the arches, and other antics documented on social media.
In response, the Los Angeles Police Department closed the bridge several times in the first few weeks after it opened in July. In other words, the opposite of what you want to do with a new $588 million piece of infrastructure you’d like people to use.
Where We Are Today
More recently, you can’t miss the substantial police presence on the bridge. On a recent visit, I noticed a near-constant flow of patrol cars driving back and forth to discourage people from driving too fast or too slow (as in fully stopping in lanes to take photos).
City leaders acknowledge that the LAPD’s focus on the bridge is draining resources. It’s also unsustainable, given the thousands of miles of other city streets where people who want to speed and burnout (or watch others do that) can go.
Now the city wants a more concrete plan to improve safety on the bridge and keep it clean.
The City Council approved a motion Friday that directs the City Administrative Officer, or CAO, to begin drafting a multi-layered plan to maintain the bridge, improve safety and keep traffic flowing across it. To do that, the CAO will work with other city departments that manage the viaduct, including the Bureau of Engineering, Department of Transportation and LAPD.
One piece of the plan calls on BOE to report back on how much money and time it would take “to install cameras, improved fencing and anti-climbing devices, median treatments and rumble strips, signage, and any other interventions… to increase public safety on the viaduct.”
BOE recently installed "yellow plastic domes" in the center median along the length of the viaduct, meant to discourage drivers from crossing into the opposite lane during burnouts (the city of Compton took a similar step recently to deter street takeovers).
City leaders also want to know what resources it would take “to close the bridge periodically to vehicular traffic and to allow for pedestrian and bicycle access only.”
That’s something several local safety advocates have called for, especially given the lack of public space on L.A.’s Eastside.
Every time the bridge is shut down it becomes an unofficial @CicLAvia — @kdeleon just give the people what they want! Shut down the bridge to cars on the weekends all together and during the week 1 lane in each direction, rest of the space for people walking and on bikes. https://t.co/n4o4QHCB3X— Michael Schneider 🇺🇦 (@schneider) July 27, 2022
Added Enforcement Proposed
The motion also:
- Directs LADOT and LAPD to create staffing plans for dedicated patrols “specifically to maintain public safety and traffic flow”
- Requests a staffing, security and maintenance plan from the Department of Recreation and Parks, LAPD and Bureau of Sanitation for the viaduct and the PARC that will eventually be built under and around it
- Requests the City Attorney to write and present an ordinance “that prohibits accessing areas outside of the bridge fencing, defacing the viaduct, street takeovers, drag racing, dangerous driving practices, the stopping of motorized vehicles, and participating in any activity that blocks the viaduct's vehicular travel lanes without a permit.”
We wanted to know if existing laws regarding traffic, trespassing and vandalism don’t apply for some reason. Or would this new ordinance make those actions extra illegal? The office of Councilmember de León, who introduced the motion, did not respond to our request for comment by publishing time.
It remains to be seen how community members will react to a sustained increase in police presence, though some advocates in Boyle Heights have voiced concerns about the city's response to safety on the bridge.
The motion requests a funding plan for all those investments within 14 days.
Aside from the public safety concerns, city leaders are also eager to keep the bridge camera-ready, since it’s destined to be the backdrop for many car commercials and other film and TV productions (the original bridge torn down in 2016 due to safety concerns was a veteran of film and TV.)
In a separate motion going before the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee next week, de León requested that the Board of Public Works determine the investments needed to keep the viaduct “free of graffiti and vandalism at all times.”
The motion also calls for city officials to explore a possible “bridge maintenance charge” for film productions and anyone else who gets a permit to use the viaduct.
Maintaining public infrastructure is not one of L.A.’s strengths, as the councilmember noted in his motion:
“The city does not have city staff or a contractor whose job it is to maintain bridges in the city. When the new viaduct is open to the public, it will receive heavy use from the film industry, special events, and the general public. If graffiti or other vandalism is done to the bridge, removing it will be extremely difficult for an individual permittee due to the physical challenges presented by the bridge structure.”