Saving a bridge by putting it on a diet

The historic York Boulevard Bridge in Los Angeles, which carried Route 66 from 1932 to 1934, apparently is in danger of being torn down and replaced with a wider bridge because of traffic congestion.

However, a local cyclist has come up with an intriguing possible solution to keep the 1912 concrete arch bridge and make it more friendly for bicycle traffic.

Richard Risemberg for the Flying Pigeon cycling blog wrote:

But yesterday I looked again, and thought, Why not a road diet?

It could work — if you rethink the way you use the lanes just a little bit.

In the usual road diet, you make room for bike lanes and sidewalks by turning a four-lane road into a three-lane road, with the center lane being a continuous left-turn channel. This removes cars waiting to turn left into side streets or driveways from the traffic flow, greatly reducing accidents and often actually improving automobile throughput, since the smoother, albeit slower, traffic doesn’t jam up any more.

Now, no one who isn’t suicidal is going to turn left on the bridge, so you’d think a road diet makes no sense at all there.

But: What if the center lane were a reversing traffic lane instead of a left-turn lane?

After all, rush-hour traffic goes one way in the morning, and the other way after work. So one of those lanes is barely in use even at peak hour!

More famous bridges use reversing lanes all the time. You do have in invest in a pair of signal bridges showing people which way is which at any given time, but the technology is well-tested and in wide use, and on a small narrow bridge such as York shouldn’t be too expensive. Lane markers with embedded lamps that change color in synch with the traffic direction would add to user-friendliness.

It makes a lot of sense. Instead of the huge cost of building a new bridge, you keep the historic span, make it a little wider for commuting motor traffic, and make it easier for cyclists as well. I’m having a hard time seeing a down side to this proposal.

This proposal makes one wonder whether this could be tried to other historic Route 66 bridges in urban areas.

(Hat tip: Scott Piotrowski and South Pasadena Patch)

One thought on “Saving a bridge by putting it on a diet

  1. While I provided the “hat tip,” I, too, have my own take on this proposal. The idea itself is not one that would WIDEN existing traffic or expand the carrying capacity for the road. What it WOULD do is DECREASE four lanes of traffic to three, with the center lane alternating traffic flow depending on congestion. It would allow for a connection between bicycle lanes in South Pasadena and Highland Park, which also both connect to major mass transit routes in the highway.

    Most importantly to preservationists, the idea being floated allows for a current historic structure to undergo NO physical changes, while undertaking some minor “facelifts” to bring it current to the traffic flow of the area.

    The idea itself is perfect for this location AS LONG AS the corresponding roadway on either side also undergoes some marking alterations to accommodate it, which I am sure it would. But more importantly, as Ron states above and as Richard states in his opinion, this could be a great precedent to set for not just historic bridges but also entire historic byways in urban areas. I only hope that L.A.DOT listens better than does CalTrans, who is incredibly oblivious to the National Register of Historic Places and its intent. (By the way, the York Bridge should fall under a portion of the Arroyo Seco National Scenic Byway Designation, but that likely would be ignored by any CalTrans influence on the project despite the legal obligation of CalTrans to follow such designation.)

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