Orange bridge over trickling water

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The LA City Council approved a new pedestrian bridge this week to connect Frogtown and Cypress Park. Its bright orange color is eye catching, but the price may also take your breath away.

A rendering of the proposed pedestrian bridge over the Los Angeles River, connecting Elysian Valley and Taylor Yard. Image courtesy SPF:architects. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Three bridge projects are underway to connect bike and pedestrian trails along the central natural-bottom Glendale Narrows stretch of the Los Angeles River. They are aimed at bikers and walkers and the goal is to bring together communities long divided by the river.

One is a bicycle-pedestrian bridge connecting Glendale to Griffith Park. The project is known as the third phase of the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk.

Then there’s a planned North Atwater multi-modal bridge over the L.A. River. It would North Atwater Village with Griffith Park. Walkers, bikers and horse-riders are meant to share this bridge.

Then you have the Taylor Yard bike/pedestrian bridge designed by SPF:architects. This 400-foot bridge would connect Cypress Park and Elysian Valley and is also being described as the Frogtown to Taylor Yard Bridge. Taylor Yard is in Cypress Park; it’s a former railyard site that is key to the city’s river revitalization plans.

Planning for this bridge goes back years — it was funded through a 1992 lawsuit against Metro, as community mitigation for construction of the Metrolink rail yard at the downstream end of Taylor Yard.

This Tuesday the City Council approved $21.7 million for this bridge. Construction costs are estimated to be $19.2 million, while engineering and administrative costs are at $2.5 million, according to the Department of Public Works.

It does sound like a lot, especially when the design was cost-estimated a few years back to cost around $11 million.

But architect Zoltan Pali says that construction costs are escalating due to the price of steel and concrete, and labor costs are very high too. It’s because there’s a lot of construction going on right now, in LA and many other parts of the world.

But let’s talk about the design. You’ve probably seen images and it looks really fun. Bright orange, what looks like an oversized box truss that slopes from east down to west and has an outlook both ways, in the middle.

He says this is a symbolic point, and he’s named the bridge “Rumblefish” after the Matt Dillon movie about rival gangs and an allusion to the gangs that once battled in this area.

“We are connecting two neighborhoods but these are two neighborhoods that at times had conflict, sort of a place where you might get into a little tussle but hopefully not. The idea is that you come to the middle of the bridge and there’s two viewing platforms and there’s a place hopefully to meet and have a nice quiet moment,” Pali said.

The city of course doesn’t call it this – their name is not so charged: the Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge.

Pali kept it relatively simple and took inspiration from the industrial railroad bridges that did actually go over the river at one time — though he describes this as being more streamlined and modern, and with a structure that is as efficient and light in use of materials as possible.

These new bridges are part of a much bigger effort to revitalize the LA River.

Since it was turned into a 51-mile concrete channel, the LA River has functioned as a wall, reinforcing the demarcation between communities made by the adjacent railroads, industry and freeways — and dividing LA economically and culturally.

After 25 years of advocacy, this hard river is being softened, parks and new bridges are being built that welcome pedestrians and cyclists, and developers are bringing life to long abandoned areas.

These represent many benefits of course but also bring anxieties about gentrification.