SEE SPAN : Our very own bridge of sighs

Angelenos are more likely to have seen the bridges just east of downtown in a movie than to actually have crossed them. A favorite of location scouts, the unique series of spans crossing the L.A. River have posed for countless action films. Least traversed of the group is the southernmost, the Washington Boulevard overpass. Its location in a heavily industrial area makes it more familiar with truck drivers than commuters. Too bad. The four pedestals that guard each of the bridge's entry corners are urban gems that should be viewed by more than local traffic. Like displaced Roman monuments leading into the central city, they elegantly flank the river despite their graffiti scars. Highlighting the top of each base is a detailed terra-cotta frieze fired in buff, black and Tuscan red. Embossed depictions of the bridge's 1931 construction on these panels show assorted cranes, vintage trucks, draftsmen, bare-chested laborers armed with pneumatic drills, and engineers examining blueprints. Crowning all of this are verdigris-tinted lamps supported by concrete scrolls. Still in decent shape despite its age, the bridge could use some cosmetic attention to ensure that it withstands another millennium of less-than-imperial traffic.

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