Have I Got a Bridge to Sell You

You’re free to pass on them—but don’t dismiss—L.A.’s marvelous commuter connections
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We all know the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, even the Chesapeake Bay Bridge—architectural gems known and beloved around the world. But L.A. drivers might be surprised to learn the city boasts many bridges that are treasured landmarks and civil engineering masterpieces. Let’s go driving on history.

Colorado Street Bridge

West Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

Colorado Street Bridge
Colorado Street Bridge

Photograph by Marilyn Woo

When it comes to original places to host a party, this bridge tops the list. Every two years, Pasadena Heritage throws a fete to both laud the beloved landmark and ensure its future. Designed by John Drake Mercereau, the bridge’s engineers considered foregoing its complicated construction across the treacherous Arroyo Seco gorge. When it was unveiled in 1913, the bridge was both the tallest concrete bridge and first curvilinear one of its day. During the Great Depression, the structure gained the nickname Suicide Bridge, but today it’s a place where gaiety prevails during Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge Party.

Colorado Street Bridge
Colorado Street Bridge

Photograph by Marilyn Woo


Shakespeare Bridge

Monon Street, Los Feliz

A mere 260-feet long, this Gothic-style structure brings with it an opportunity to “slow down a bit and appreciate the Franklin Hills neighborhood and the bridge’s mystique,” says Los Angeles Conservancy president and CEO Linda Dishman. Designed by J.C. Wright, the bridge was built in 1926 so local artists and entertainers could come and go to the original Disney Studios.


Sixth Street Viaduct/Ribbon of Arches

East 6th Street, Downtown Los Angeles

A rendering of the Ribbon of Arches bridge
A rendering of the Ribbon of Arches bridge

Rendering courtesy City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. / HNTB Corporation

Pharrell Williams’ 2013 “Happy” music video was filmed on this historic bridge, which was built in 1932 and connected L.A.’s Arts District to Boyle Heights. A rare chemical reaction and seismic vulnerability spelled demolition for the 3,500-foot viaduct this year, but a $449-million project designed by architect Michael Maltzan is underway to replace the original. Of that bridge’s 2019 unveiling, city engineer Gary Lee Moore says, “When the new ‘Ribbon of Arches’ lights up the sky, with the Los Angeles River below, we believe we’ll have created a new destination for generations to come, as well as a special gathering place for those who have long loved the viaduct.”

A rendering of the Ribbon of Arches bridge
A rendering of the Ribbon of Arches bridge

Rendering courtesy City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. / HNTB Corporation


North Broadway Bridge

North Broadway, Lincoln Heights

This Beaux-Arts-style bridge was built replete with viewing balconies. Even in 1911, designers Homer Hamlin and Alfred P. Rosenheim knew city vistas would grow more stunning over time from the bridge’s Lincoln Heights location. Originally known as the Buena Vista Viaduct, when this historic cultural monument was first unveiled, it was the longest and widest concrete arch bridge in California.


 Gerald Desmond Bridge

Interstate 710, Long Beach

The current Gerald Desmond Bridge
The current Gerald Desmond Bridge

Photograph courtesy Port of Long Beach

The predecessor of this Long Beach landmark was a pontoon bridge that often resulted in cars bouncing off into the water. At the behest of city attorney Gerald Desmond, this steel-trussed arch took its place in 1968. The bridge both connects Downtown Long Beach to Terminal Island and serves as a thoroughfare for travel to San Pedro and the South Bay. “Fifteen percent of all containerized imports coming into the U.S. travel over that bridge,” says Lee Peterson, a spokesperson for the Port of Long Beach. “That’s not a job for which that bridge was designed.”

Rendering of unnamed replacement for Gerald Desmond Bridge
Rendering of unnamed replacement for Gerald Desmond Bridge

Rendering courtesy Port of Long Beach

Enter the 2013 construction of its yet to be named replacement, set for completion in 2018. The two-towered, cable-stayed bridge will bring with it a pedestrian bikeway that showcases port views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. Fifty stories high, the bridge will be visible miles away. “It represents our connection to the world,” Peterson says. “One of our harbor masters calls it the Bridge to Everywhere.”