The 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, documented the fact that the 3Re Strategy–repurpose, renew, reconnect—is the single most reliable and proven revitalization on the planet.
Repurposing, renewing and reconnecting our existing natural, built and socioeconomic assets is the key to both revitalizing places and making them more resilient.
Repurposing usually comes first: that establishes a viable new purpose for an asset, which attracts the resources and public/political support needed to renew it (the second step). Reconnecting (usually the last step) is often overlooked, but it can easily double or triple a project’s ROI when done right.
Sometimes, however, reconnecting a place is all that’s needed to create a revitalizing effect. Such is the case in this example.
In Los Angeles, California, the city’s Bureau of Engineering has created the Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge to help reconnect and revitalize neighborhoods that have long been divided by the Los Angeles River, and damaged by poor road planning.
It’s one of the newest bridges to span the Los Angeles River, and is a car-free bridge reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists.
Opened in 2021, this 400-foot-long, 27-foot-wide steel truss box bridge connects the Elysian Valley and Cypress Park communities, located on the south and north sides of the river, respectively.
“The Taylor Yard Bike/Walk Bridge connects communities in an aesthetically pleasing, sustainable way,” said Melissa Peneycad, managing director at the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.
“The bridge enlarges sustainable transportation and recreation options for people in neighboring communities, true to the city’s plans to enhance the river identity and improve mobility. For these reasons and more, ISI is pleased to recognize this project with an Envision Bronze award for sustainability,” she added.
Orange in color to represent the beautiful LA sunsets, the bridge has a distinctive style.
It was designed to require minimal supports in the river, reducing the disruption of the natural flow of the river and habitat impacts.
The bridge includes lookout platforms for viewers and provides users with improved river access and more green spaces to bike and walk.
It was designed to be durable, easy to maintain, and constructed efficiently.
The owner, the City of Los Angeles, worked in close collaboration with several partners on the bridge design and construction, including SPF:architects (Architect), Tetra Tech (Civil Engineer), Arup (Structural Engineer), Hood Design (Landscape), and Ortiz Enterprises (Contractor).
“The Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge is the third pedestrian crossing in recent years that the Bureau of Engineering has completed along this stretch of the Los Angeles River,” said Ted Allen, City Engineer.
“These bridges are connecting communities and creating safe, car-free ways for people to cross the river. These projects are part of the overall revitalization of the Los Angeles River, and highlight the City’s ongoing commitment to connecting communities and bringing residents more ways to access and enjoy open space,” he continued.
VERIFIED SUSTAINABILITY ACHIEVEMENTS
Adding public space and amenities.
The bridge also extends the bike path infrastructure in the area. Decks off the main bridge pathway provide users with resting points and opportunities to view the river and its riparian wildlife.
In addition, the north bank of the bridge includes a landscaped area with seating to provide additional opportunities for rest.
The bridge was also designed to link pedestrians and cyclists to the future open space park planned for the Taylor Yard site on the eastside of the river.
The park’s first project, Paseo del Rio at Taylor Yard is now in the planning phase.
Encouraging the use of alternative modes of transportation.
Residents in the Elysian Valley and Cypress Park communities can better access facilities on the opposite side without needing to drive to them.
Furthermore, this bridge seamlessly integrates with the existing bike path that runs along the southwest bank of the LA River—a popular route for pedestrians and cyclists.
Since river crossings are located several miles apart, adding this bridge significantly improves community access to facilities, all while encouraging the use of alternative, i.e., non-motorized, transportation.
Improving community safety.
Before this project, pedestrians occasionally climbed down the 20-foot channel walls and into the 60-foot-wide river to cross it. This raised safety concerns, and such actions also signaled the need for a new, safer way to cross the river. In light of this, many measures were put in place once the bridge was completed to improve safety and encourage its use.
These included implementing a shoulder separating pedestrians from cyclists, ensuring slopes throughout the bike path and bridge did not exceed 5%, and installing new lighting and guardrails along the north and south bike path and on the bridge.
Signing and striping conform with Caltrans guidelines and the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and construction included detectable warning surfaces on the pedestrian path on both sides of a rail crossing to warn visually impaired pedestrians of the intersection.
A gate has also been installed where the existing railroad tracks cross the proposed north bike path, which will not open to allow a train to pass without train conductors coordinating directly with the city.
Preserving views and enhancing local character.
The LA River is a historic landmark important to Angelenos, especially those who live along its banks.
Great care was taken to preserve the character-defining features of the river and its views. The open truss design of the bridge will allow views of the river beyond the bridge to remain visible.
The original bridge truss color was changed from dark blue to warm orange to reflect the sunset over the river.
The two observation decks that protrude on either side of the bridge have steel grate platforms so visitors can see the river, plants, and wildlife below them.
Prioritizing input from stakeholders, including the public.
The project team prioritized the needs of stakeholders throughout project planning, design, and construction. Several divisions within the City’s Bureau of Engineering, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Public Utility Commission, the Department of Toxic Substances, the Department of Water and Power, LA County Flood Control District, LA Department of Transportation, LA Fire Department, LA Metro, State Parks, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the local communities, i.e., residents of the Elysian Valley and Cypress Park communities provided input.
Stakeholder input led to enhancements to bridge safety (adding additional lighting and guardrails in the final design), hydrology (raising the bridge to accommodate hydrology and maintenance road clearance for vehicles), and environmental monitoring (monitoring air quality and conducting soil testing and conducting biological monitoring throughout construction to ensure no adverse impacts on water, animal, and plant species).
All photos courtesy of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering.