The newest bridge in Los Angeles, a $588-million architectural marvel with views of the downtown skyline, opened to great fanfare on July 10. It has already been closed, to great dismay, several times since then amid chaos and collisions.
The 6th Street Viaduct — which soars over the concrete-lined Los Angeles River to connect downtown to the historic Eastside — quickly became a hotspot for street racing, graffiti and illegal takeovers that draw hundreds of spectators to watch drivers perform dangerous stunts in their vehicles.
Social media stunts have abounded as well — in one case, a man sat in a barber’s chair for a haircut in the middle of the lanes. And the crashes are piling up, including a three-car collision where one driver, who had been part of a street takeover, left his white Dodge Challenger and ran from the scene. He later turned himself in.
The Los Angeles Police Department has closed the bridge multiple times — an exact count was not available Wednesday — and in the latest move, announced Tuesday that it would be “closed until further notice due to illegal activity and public safety concerns” before backtracking and reopening it hours later.
Officials hope to install speed bumps, safety fences and cameras on the less than three-week-old bridge to curtail the behavior. In the meantime, officers are impounding vehicles and issuing citations.
“We ask for everyone to take a pause and recognize that this is a figure or a location in Los Angeles that we all want to be proud of,” Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday. “We want to show the world that we are a world-class city, that we can have these types of features and we can take care of them, respect them.”
The bridge spans 3,500 feet from the trendy Arts District to Boyle Heights, a traditionally working class Latino neighborhood, in the largest and most expensive bridge ever built in the city.
Known as the “Ribbon of Light” for its thousands of LED lights and tilted arches — which have already attracted daredevil pedestrians and skateboarders — it replaced an 84-year-old Art Deco bridge. That structure, seen in countless Hollywood movies including “Grease” and “Terminator 2,” was demolished in 2016 after a chemical reaction weakened its concrete over decades.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called the new bridge “our generation’s love letter to the city” during its opening weekend.
“While the Mayor recognizes that the celebration of this bridge is overwhelmingly positive, he has no tolerance for behavior that keeps Angelenos from enjoying this new landmark,” said Harrison Wollman, Garcetti’s press secretary, in a statement Wednesday. “The City is reviewing additional safety options and is taking immediate action to ensure the bridge is safe and accessible for everyone.”
John Yi, executive director of pedestrian advocacy nonprofit Los Angeles Walks, said the bridge wasn’t built to optimize pedestrian and bicyclist safety. It currently lacks a center median, for example, though discussions to add one are underway.
Yi said the shutdowns are city leaders’ attempts to reframe the discussion away from poor infrastructure and toward the street racers and other risk-takers.
“It’s the message the city’s trying to send to the public: This is not our fault, this is their fault,” he said.
But Yi said the bridge’s design was flawed from the start: “If you provide a concrete jungle gym, then that’s how people will use it.”