Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmen Jose Huizar and Ed Reyes Thursday invited engineers and architects from across the globe to submit designs to replace the Sixth Street Bridge across the Los Angeles River and Hollywood (101) Freeway east of downtown.
The City Council voted last November to replace the 80-year-old bridge, which engineers believe has a 70 percent chance of collapsing in the next 50 years and a very good chance of falling during a major earthquake.
Engineers began noticing cracks in the 3,250-foot bridge almost as soon as it was completed in 1932. Silica in the stone from Santa Barbara used to build the bridge reacts with alkali in the structure’s concrete to form a gel.
Water causes the gel to expand and causes the concrete to crumble over time.
“The Sixth Street Bridge design competition will make sure the new bridge reflects our city’s spirit and style,” Villaraigosa said. “As we go through this process, we will make sure the community is informed and involved every step of the way.”
The estimated $401 million project is heavily reliant on funding commitments from the federal government, which committed to paying $365 million to help replace the bridge. However, that commitment depends on Congress not reducing the size of a surface transportation bill that has not been finalized.
City Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes the bridge, said the new design should both honor the original’s history but also usher the city into a new era.
“The Sixth Street Bridge is one of the city’s iconic landmarks and if we must replace it, we need to do it on a grand, international scale,” Huizar said.
Project managers will solicit designs from across the globe in two phases. Teams will initially have to clear a qualifications phase. The Bureau of Engineering and Caltrans officials, with input from the community, will then choose a few teams to advance to a design competition, with the winner to be chosen this fall.
The newly designed bridge between Boyle Heights and downtown will have to meet current highway and safety standards. The existing bridge has an inadequate roadway width, railings that are not to federal specifications and poor roadway alignment.
“Bridges, like national monuments, can symbolize the achievements of a culture,” said Hsinming Fung, director of academic programs at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. “But more than that, they can embody the energy, the vitality and the creativity which make those achievements possible.”
Construction on the bridge is expected to begin in 2015 and be completed in 2018.