In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 27, the Sixth Street Viaduct was closed to traffic. The setting up of barriers — which more or less marks the physical beginning of a $449 million replacement project that will take about four years — underplayed the significance and history of this piece of urban infrastructure.
The Sixth Street Viaduct opened in 1932, and for 84 years connected the communities on the east and west sides of the Los Angeles River. It arrived at a far different time in Los Angeles, decades before people would ever think of calling a sprawling portion of eastern Downtown the Arts District.
It is being razed because a chemical condition, known as Alkali Silica Reaction, has caused its concrete to weaken. The replacement will be a bridge that features a so-called “ribbon of arches” design, complete with pedestrian and bike access. Renderings and models look impressive.
As the official website sixthstreetvidaduct.org notes, the bridge, at 3,500 feet, is the longest of a series of 14 historic bridges spanning the river. Its graceful arcs and the view it affords of the Downtown Los Angeles skyline have appeared in countless films, TV shows and commercials (it’s a favorite for car ads). It also stretches over part of the 101 Freeway; the removal of that portion of the bridge will occur first, leading to a 40-hour shutdown of a 2.5-mile section of the freeway starting Friday, Feb. 5.
Just about the only constant in modern Downtown is change. In many cases old buildings have been preserved. In this instance, the engineers decided that a new bridge was required.
Now work is underway, and Angelenos have a short time to snap photos of something that over the decades has served untold millions of people. It was a landmark. Bye-bye bridge.