Officials bid farewell to the 6th Street Viaduct

The aging 6th Street Viaduct over the Los Angeles River.

The aging 6th Street Viaduct over the Los Angeles River.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Final farewells were visible all over the 6th Street Viaduct on Wednesday.

Spinning tire trails were burned onto the bridge’s asphalt deck; declarations of love and poetry were scribbled onto its concrete railings and incomprehensible graffiti was blasted across its high metal arches.

“So long and thanks for all the fish,” read one note.

Even the pigeons made a final flight over the concrete span, along with a clattering LAPD helicopter.

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“The great thing about this bridge is that no matter where you stand, you have a great view,” Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar said as he led a final walk across the bridge Wednesday morning.

Demolition of the crumbling bridge is scheduled to begin this week and could take up to nine months to complete, as crews cart away more than 110,000 tons of concrete.

Among those who walked along with Huizar was Los Angeles City Engineer Gary Lee Moore and Michael Maltzan, the designer of the replacement bridge.

The work is expected to contribute to traffic snarls as soon as Feb. 5, when crews are scheduled to tear down the eastern section of the bridge that passes over the 101 Freeway. As a result, a 2 1/2-mile section of the Hollywood Freeway will be closed for 40 hours.

“While I’m more aware that the closure will cause delays, believe me, it will be worth it in the long run,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I can’t wait to be here in just a few short years to cut the ribbon.”


City officials say they have made improvements to surrounding intersections in an effort to mitigate some of the congestion.

“We certainly want to thank the public for their patience and allowing us to demolish the bridge,” said Moore.

The new 6th Street Bridge, a $449-million project expected to be completed in 2019, will echo the design of the old one: a four-lane road framed by curved arches of varying heights following the approximate path of a stone skipped across a pond.

Planners imagine the bridge as one that dedicates equal space to pedestrians, bicyclists and cars and integrates the two very different communities it connects.

Built in 1932, the 6th Street Bridge is the city’s longest — extending about 3,500 feet — and had become a historical landmark.

During its lifetime, the bridge played a supporting role in numerous movies, television shows and music videos.

Unfortunately, the bridge also suffered from a terminal case of “concrete cancer,” according to engineers. Its cement supports began to disintegrate because of a chemical problem known as alkali silica reaction.

“We couldn’t reverse that,” Moore said.

The 6th Street Bridge east of downtown Los Angeles is scheduled to close for demolition. On Wednesday, some visited the bridge for a “final walk.”

As a result, the bridge is vulnerable to failure in a major earthquake.

“While I’m sad today and I hate to see it go — and we’re doing it because of public safety concern — I’m looking forward to the future the new bridge will provide,” Huizar said.

Over the last few months, Angelenos have made their way to the bridge for a final visit.

There was a “6th Street Bridge Farewell Festival” held in October, and more than 100 people gathered on its deck Tuesday night for a boisterous farewell party. (The LAPD eventually put an end to the festivities, telling the crowd to leave.)

On Wednesday morning, Tony Garcia, 40, of Boyle Heights, said he and his brother used to ride their bikes on the bridge. He, his father and brother got up early in the morning to take photos of themselves standing on the structure. He said he plans to do the same when the new bridge opens.

“It’s sad to see it go,” he said. “It’s like your first car, even if it doesn’t work, you don’t want to let it go.”

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