Monday, March 4, 2024

First look inside Long Beach’s massive Shoemaker Bridge replacement project

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Discussions surrounding the slowly dilapidating Shoemaker Bridge in Long Beach—the bridge which carries vehicles from the 710 over to the Broadway and Shoreline Drive exits—have been evolving across a decade, beginning with now-Congressman Robert Garcia calling for the original bridge to be adaptively reused while making way for the new bridge. And that is where the City’s Shoemaker Bridge Replacement Project comes in.

While the old bridge will not be adaptively reused due to exorbitant costs (a sad shame because that would have been rather awesome), the City of Long Beach held its first community meeting to gather opinions regarding the massive infrastructural project since unveiling an older rendering back in 2020—and things look mightily different with a (still in-progress) updated design.

And yes, they include some rather awesome pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure.

So what is, exactly, being proposed in the Shoemaker Bridge Replacement Project?

Accompanied by the improvements coming to Shoreline Drive—which will essentially buttress what is currently the northbound Shoreline Drive lane with its southbound lane at the easternmost edge of the Los Angeles River, converting 5.6 acres of previous roadway into space for Cesar Chavez Park—the Shoemaker Bridge Replacement Project is being conducted because the current bridge will soon become entirely unsafe for vehicular traffic to continue using thanks to structural deficiencies. Add to this a car crash rate that is higher than comparable roadways and it becomes clear as to why the project needs to move forward.

According to initial proposals—which City staff insisted is still “in progress” in terms of design and what will ultimately be built—showcase a structural element which, like the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge which replaced the former Gerald Desmond Bridge, uses a symmetrical-rings, cable-stayed design that looks to be an architectural icon while coming into the city from the 710.

The proposed Shoemaker Bridge will be a four-lane, cable-stayed bridge carrying vehicular traffic from the 710 to an elevated roundabout that connects the bridge to both 7th Street and Shoreline Drive at the eastern edge of the L.A. River. Using stay cables, tie-backs, structural steel, and post-tension concrete, the heigh of the symmetrical rings holding the cables will reach 240 feet and the width of the rings span some 765 feet.

According to the City’s presentation, the “reduction of bridge piers in the Los Angeles River from five to two will improve the hydraulic qualities of the river, creating more space for the free movement of aquatic and amphibious wildlife. The new bridge will utilize aesthetic lighting systems that provide for greater control of sky glow and light spillover, controlling light so it does not stray into the river or up into the sky. The lighting system will allow for adaptive management to be bird friendly.”

You said something about pedestrian and bicyclist elements to be included?

Yes, the bridge will have some quality upgrades in terms of pedestrian and bicyclist exploration possibilities: The bridge will also have a protected shared-use path that connects Fashion Avenue in West Long Beach to a realigned L.A. River Class I Bike Path on the east bank of the river. Additionally, the new Shoemaker Bridge will also incorporate a pedestrian observation area in the middle of the bridge’s south side.  

How is the park space being increased between both projects—and why is that important?

The Shoemaker Bridge replacement project and the Shoreline Drive revisioning project go hand-in-hand with a key component: increasing park space, particularly for those that live on the Westside.

No, the park space isn’t directly in West Long Beach—but many from the Westside will be access it: Currently, Shoreline Drive is separated by a large land median, its northbound lanes on the east and southbound lanes on the west, both on the east side of the L.A. River’s lining. By buttressing the northbound lane directly next to the southbound lane, that land median becomes park space.

And it won’t just be used by Downtowners but heavily by Westsiders, who severely lack park space: In fact, West Long Beach residents have only one acre per 1,000 residents, or what amounts to about a soccer field. This is far below the National Recreation and Parks Association’s standards for a healthy city, set at a minimum of 10 acres of parks for every 1,000 of its residents.

Compare this to East Long Beach, which averages a staggering 16.7 acres per 1,000 residents thanks to the massive 650-acre El Dorado Park. Of the 31,066 acres of land within our city limits, 3,123 acres are dedicated to parks. El Dorado Park makes up the biggest single chunk of that mass.

Nearly 20% of Long Beach’s total population is unable to easily access parks—and that burden falls disproportionately on West Long Beach, with the most park-poor areas also the most dense, the most youthful and the poorest.

What’s the timeline on the Shoemaker Bridge replacement project?

City staff is saying that the final design will be reached in springtime of 2024, with construction breaking ground in 2025 and a hopeful ribbon-cutting date in 2028, in time for the Olympics.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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