ECHO PARK — The First Street Bridge that spans the L.A. River, connecting Boyle Heights and Downtown, is a grand structure and city historic landmark. That bridge reopened five years ago after an extensive renovation. But there’s another, lesser known First Street Bridge that crosses over a tangle of streets at the southern edge of Echo Park. Now, this neglected and shabby First Street Bridge is poised to get a makeover of its own as other changes are planned nearby.
The city’s Bureau of Engineering is preparing two key changes to The First Street Bridge that swoops past the Bob Baker Marionette Theater over Glendale Boulevard. Those changes include an earthquake retrofit and widening the structure by 2.5 feet on each side. The project will cost an estimated $10 million.
Built in 1942, the First Street Bridge serves as a southern gateway to Echo Park for those headed out of Downtown and up Glendale Boulevard. The bridge is by far Echo Park’s largest: measuring 54-feet wide and 974-feet long, including approaches, according to the Bureau of Engineering. The middle span alone is about 200-feet long.
The final designs are still in the works, and construction is not scheduled to begin until next year. There’s no telling how the project will impact traffic, but a city spokeswoman said the bridge will remain open as much as possible to keep disruptions to a minimum.
Preparations to retrofit and widen the bridge comes as new construction and other changes are planned for this busy crossroads. For example, much of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater will be replaced with an eight-story, mixed-use project with more than 100 apartments, 3,500-square-feet of retail space and a roof top deck, which would likely offer a view of the First Street Bridge. Meanwhile, the colorful La Ofrenda mural underneath the bridge is poised to be restored, brightening up a the gloomy underpass.
Even more change might be on the way. The artist working to restore the mural said there is an effort to “re-envision” the underpass space, which is frequently filled with trash and homeless encampments. Still no word on what specific changes are planned for the underpass.
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