Faced with a shortage of money for repairs, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a policy Tuesday that will allow up to 30% of the city's bridges to go without retrofits even if their condition is graded "C" or "D," including 18 that have been judged in "very poor" condition.
The council overturned a decision by the city Public Works Board that would have required city bridges to have at least a "B" grade, which indicates that they are in at least "good" to "fair" condition.
Instead, the council adopted a policy that at least 70% of the bridges must achieve a "B" grade, allowing up to 30% to have grades of "C" and "D" without needing immediate repair. A "C" grade means that the condition of the bridge is "fair to poor" and a "D" grade means that the bridge is in "very poor condition" and in need of "significant" action.
"They will remain that way until we find additional funding," said Peter C. See, manager of the city's bridge improvement program.
See said that none of the bridges are unsafe and that the city would close any unsafe structures. Most of the major bridges and tunnels have been seismically retrofitted and repaired as part of a $600-million program that was largely funded by the federal government after the Northridge earthquake.
Bridges that still have a "D" grade include the Balboa Boulevard bridge over the Los Angeles River, Devonshire Street over Wilbur Creek, the Oro Vista Avenue bridge, Reseda Boulevard over Caballero Creek, Ferrari Drive north of Summitridge Drive, La Tuna Canyon Road over La Tuna Canyon and the Sepulveda Tunnel.
The tunnel repair is budgeted for $12 million over the next five years.
To get the federal funds, the city must adopt a policy setting standards for bridge conditions. That was the policy approved Tuesday.
Although the new policy allows up to 156 bridges to operate with "C" or "D" grades, See said that all but 82 structures are scheduled to be repaired as part of a $386-million program that is expected to be undertaken from now until 2008.
Even so, the policy change sparked heated debate in the City Council, with Councilman Nate Holden complaining that more bridges could have been repaired if the city had not diverted more than $100 million in seismic repair bond money to renovate City Hall.