LA’s Ribbon of Light viaduct cast into darkness

Thieves have been pulling copper wiring out of electrical boxes Los Angeles’ 6th Street Viaduct and selling it for scrap, prompting police to report that “the Grinch stole all the Christmas lights”.
Maintenance / January 10, 2024 1 minute Read
By David Arminas
LA’s 6th Street Viaduct in brighter times (image courtesy HNTB)

Thieves have been stealing copper wire from the lighting system of LA’s 6th Street Viaduct, casting sections of the steel and concrete structure into darkness.

The award-winning 1.1km long and 14m wide bridge spanning Los Angeles’ historic Boyle Heights opened in July 2022 as a replacement for a 1932 bridge. It features 10 pairs of 9.1m and 18.2m concrete canted arches that are illuminated with different colours. The four-lane viaduct has wide pedestrian paths on both sides.

Since its opening, the bridge – the longest in Los Angeles City - has become the backdrop for thousands of people who pose or play on the structure for their social media sites, according to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News newspaper. This included drivers who would take over the bridge to perform illegal maneuvers.

Thieves have pulled the copper wiring out of dozens of electrical boxes and it for scrap, prompting local police to report that “The Grinch stole all the Christmas lights”, the newspaper said. However, the problem of thieves stealing copper wiring from many infrastructure projects across the US at all times of year is unfortunately common.

The newspaper noted that for the opening of the bridge in 2022 – after six years of construction - thousands of locals came out to celebrate on the structure noted for its unusual arch design. The bridge has had been

But police have had to periodically close the bridge because of drivers doing stunts, people climbing on the arch loops and skateboarders riding them like ramps. There was even a barber cutting a client’s hair in the middle of traffic, said the newspaper. Last May, a 17-year-old slipped to his death while attempting to scale part of the bridge.

The earlier viaduct on this site, built in 1932, was closed for demolition in January 2016 and demolished due to serious structural issues, including several large cracks, resulting from the high alkaline content of the concrete composition, due to architectural unsophistication. As a result, concerns over the structure's seismic instability outweighed its historical status, leading to its closure.

The new bridge spans the LA River and the 101 Freeway, local surface roads as well as 18 railroad tracks operated by five different railroad agencies including Union Pacific and Metrolink. It was designed by the HNTB which led an international competition decided by public vote. The viaduct accommodates vehicles and pedestrians, as did the original bridge, and provides dedicated lanes for bikes.

The overall project included a 12-acre public park running below the bridge, accessible by multiple stairways and a helical bike ramp which also lead to recreational fields with restrooms and café, the LA River, public art and an arts plaza.

HNTB says that it is the largest bridge project in the history of the City of Los Angeles and winner of  American Council of Engineering Companies' 2023 Grand Conceptor Award.

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