By Sergio Meza
After 79 years of towering over the Los Angeles River, the historic Sixth Street Bridge faces its inevitable fate. The Los Angeles City Council recently announced that the Sixth Street Bridge is on the verge of demolition due to a corroding chemical reaction in the concrete called alkali-silica reaction, known as ASR.
According to Los Angeles architect Alex Ward, ASR is known commonly as a “concrete cancer” that gradually corrodes structures. This condition occurs when the silica in the concrete mixture bonds with water and expands the structure, making the bridge weak and fragile.
The Sixth Street Bridge is the only bridge over the L.A. River with this condition. While the restoration of the bridge cannot be accomplished, the future Sixth Street Bridge caused disputes on both sides of the river. The history behind the Sixth Street Bridge spans over nearly eight decades and its steel arches over the river are recognized in movies and music videos of all kinds.
The bridge is currently eligible for an addition to the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge’s design is admired by Angelenos as a remarkable accompaniment to the 13 other historic bridges that soar above the L.A. River. However, the approaching demolition brings up the topic of the future design. The current proposal consists of a modern take on starved classicism architecture with the same style of barriers on each side of the bridge.
Although the design may pay homage to its predecessor, it includes modern steel cables rather than the arches at the center of the bridge. By creating a new design for the bridge, the city would save $20 million instead of replicating its predecessor. Alex Ward, who supports the new design, says that a duplicate of the current Sixth Street Bridge would be an, “unsatisfactory attempt at reproduction of the existing bridge.”
Planning will occur within the next four to five years. Regardless of what design carries the people of Boyle Heights into downtown Los Angeles, the bridge has served the community for the last 79 years.