The sight and sound of Metro street cars crossing over the First Street Bridge has become a common sight since the Metro Gold Line was extended last year to connect downtown with Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles beyond. The 81-year-old span has also become the scene of a less welcome sight: a years-long construction project that has limited vehicle traffic to only two eastbound lanes as delays and construction costs pile up. The project, which would widen the bridge 26 feet to accommodate the Metro train tracks, had been expected to open last May. The project deadline was then extended to January of next year. Now, based on the most recent report by city engineers, the First Street bridge project won’t be finished until December 2011. Meanwhile, city officials warn the project may go more than $12 million over budget. What went wrong?
An October report by the city’s Bureau of Engineering blames everything from the unexpected discovery of large boulders and unknown utility lines that complicated foundation construction to restricted work hours near a Metro rail yard. The most recent staff report recommends the City Council approve increasing the budget on the third and final phase of the project by $6.9 million but officials warn that they might come back and ask for another $5.1 million. As a result of the delays and budget-busting items, the final cost of the First Street Budget project that could top $92 million. City staff is now seeking to tap state and highway grants and funds to cover the shortfall.
Waiting for the arches to return to the First Street bridge. The Eastsider
Photo of the First Street Bridge in January