The historic First Street Viaduct reopened Tuesday about four years after the bridge was closed in order to build the Metro Gold Line extension to East Los Angeles.
The opening of the bridge with two additional westbound lanes on the north side will eliminate a significant detour for the estimated thousands of motorists who make the trip from Boyle Heights to downtown each day.
"More symbolically, it reinforces the connections we've had from Boyle Heights and the Eastside to downtown with a better transportation system,'' City Councilman Jose Huizar said. "It will allow for continued improvement of relations and activity between the arts district in Little Tokyo and the
growing arts district in Boyle Heights.''
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Councilwoman Jan Perry and public works and transportation officials are expected to join Huizar to open the bridge to westbound traffic.
The 1929 Merrill Butler-designed bridge is the second oldest of the classic bridges spanning the Los Angeles River near downtown.
To make room for the Gold Line, engineers widened the bridge by 26 feet and added two new westbound lanes. The project required workers to remove five 200,000-pound pylons supporting the bridge. They were strengthened, widened and put back in place.
Engineers also replicated the historic railing on the north side of the bridge that had to be demolished during the widening, and installed four new fire hydrants for safety.
"The Gold Line was never out of service during construction, and we had to do the work over 15 sets of live railroad tracks,'' City Engineer Gary Lee Moore said.
Huizar said he has a special connection to the bridge because it sustained his childhood job. He used to ride his bike from Boyle Heights across the First Street Viaduct to Little Tokyo in order to pick up copies of the Rafu Shimpo newspaper, which he would haul back east across the bridge to deliver to Japanese families.
Monthly ridership numbers for the entire Gold Line, including the stretch to Pasadena, are up about 38 percent, to 947,000 riders, since 2009.
Huizar said the Gold Line has exceeded its goals.
"There was some concern initially about ridership, but it's picked up tremendously ever since," he said. "We're also reaching the other goal of having economic development where the line is now going.
"I see storefronts on First that haven't been used in years now open. More people are walking the streets near the Gold Line. Yes there was an impact during construction, but now it appears it's supporting local businesses."