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Home / Neighborhood / Los Angeles / Opening celebrations begin for long-awaited Sixth Street Viaduct

Opening celebrations begin for long-awaited Sixth Street Viaduct

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It took years longer than anticipated and the final cost is well above original estimates, but Los Angeles began a three-day community celebration Friday evening to mark the completion of the Sixth Street Viaduct, a new connection between Boyle Heights and the downtown Arts District that replaces one of the city’s most iconic structures.

The previous Sixth Street Viaduct, which was built in 1932, was a Los Angeles landmark seen in countless films and television shows, most notably “Grease” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

But that original structure fell victim to the ravages of time and deterioration blamed on an alkali-silica chemical reaction that caused an expansion and cracking of the concrete over time, leaving the bridge seismically unsound.

Demolition work on the original structure began in 2016, with city officials at the time projecting a 2019 completion for the then-$449 million effort. Within a few months, however, the completion date was pushed back to late 2020, followed by additional construction delays during the ensuing COVID-19-plagued years.

But on Friday evening, dignitaries gathered to celebrate the completion of the project, now estimated at $588 million. The project — the largest bridge project in the city’s history — was funded by the Federal Highway Transportation Administration, Caltrans and the city of Los Angeles. City officials also said the project had the largest number of women workers of any public works construction project in the nation.

“It is in many ways the embodiment of what Los Angeles strives to be — a city that connects community, the cultural capital of the world,” Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters on the bridge Friday morning.

The new viaduct’s “Ribbon of Light” design, with its 20 sweeping arches, was created by the architectural firm HNTB Corp. and Los Angeles-based architect Michael Maltzan.

City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said the new bridge is seismically strong, unlike its predecessor.

“We came back with something bigger and better,” he told ABC7. “And the other thing is, during an earthquake, this is the place to be. It can withstand a 1,000-year seismic event. Of course, I hope there’s no seismic event, but if there is, this is going to be a very safe place.”

Friday evening’s formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by a host of city officials, including Garcetti, and was followed by an arch-lighting ceremony. But the bridge itself will not officially open to traffic until Sunday night.

Before then, there will be a weekend-long community celebration. Interest has been so high that tickets for Saturday’s events have already sold out. Organizers said walk-up visitors without tickets will be asked to stand in line, but they’ll only be admitted as time allows.

Saturday’s event, beginning at 2 p.m., will include live music with headliners Ozomatli, food trucks, a vintage car display, fireworks and a bridge-lighting.

On Sunday, the bridge will be open for pedestrians and bicyclists, with no tickets required, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The bridge will officially open to vehicle traffic at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The city’s Bureau of Engineering plans to create a 12-acre park under the bridge to provide access to the LA River, public art, recreational programming and more.

According to the Bureau of Engineering’s plans, the downtown side of the Sixth Street Viaduct park will include a rain garden, planted seating area, a play and performance lawn, a sculpture garden, a meadow, a dog play area, an adult fitness section, cafe and restrooms, a sloped river gateway, an urban forest and terraces.

On the Boyle Heights side, the park’s plans include a skateboard area; a meadow; a picnic area; a synthetic turf soccer field; flexible courts sized for basketball, futsal and volleyball; a play and performance lawn; a children’s play area; a promenade; a landscaped seating area; an adult fitness area; a rain garden; a dog play area and grilling spaces.

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