Pasadena Star-News Op-ed: Gold Line Bridge Captures Local Heritage, History

The following Op-ed originally appeared in the 12/19/12 print edition of the Pasadena Star-News.

Gold Line Bridge Captures Local Heritage, History

By Cynthia Kurtz

Last Saturday the San Gabriel Valley received a wonderful holiday gift when the new Gold Line Bridge in Arcadia was dedicated. This isn’t just any bridge. Actually it looks more like a piece of art than a bridge. But it will have a very important purpose – to carry the Gold Line light rail trains across the Foothill (210) Freeway.

If you are in one of the 255,000 drivers who travel the 210 just a half mile west of the Santa Anita exit, you have seen lots of activity over the last 519 days. You may have wondered exactly what was going on when freeway closure alerts were prominently displayed or when woven baskets made of concrete began to appear. It is all part of the Foothill Gold Line Project which will extend the rail service from East Pasadena to Azusa.

The old Santa Fe Bridge no longer met seismic standards so it had to be replaced. Caltrans removed the old structure and the Gold Line Construction Authority was responsible for replacing the structure for the new light-rail system.

They could have – you know – just built a bridge. Instead, the Gold Line embarked on the design and construction of a structure that will be a landmark for rail and freeway riders alike. Award winning artist Andrew Leicester was selected to design the new 584-foot structure.

Leicester has created many large scale public art works including the Minneapolis Interchange – a multi-model station and plaza scheduled to open in downtown Minneapolis adjacent to the Twins Stadium in 2014. The plaza will protect riders from the severe climate, use the energy from a nearby energy recycling center for heat and collect rain water for internal irrigation. He also designed transit art in New York, Charlotte, N.C. and Seven Seas, Minn. as well as public plazas, promenades, gateways and art in architecture projects around the world.

The design for the Foothill Basket Bridge was inspired by the indigenous Native American people and wildlife in the SGV. Two 255-foot-tall, 17-foot-wide baskets flank the structure. These baskets represent the traditional basket weaving of the Gabrielino tribe, historically known as the San Gabriel Valley Band of Mission Indians. Each basket is made up of sixteen concrete reeds ranging from two to ten feet in height. The concrete comprising the baskets contains black stone and glass to provide a subtle reflective quality.

The underside of the main bridge – or super structure – simulates the patterns found on the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake – a symbol of the American Southwest in myth, art and media.

The project also created local jobs for the SGV. The bridge was constructed by Skanska USA. The design and engineering work was completed by Los Angeles-based AECOM, and 92 percent of the materials used in construction were from local and regional sources.

Congratulations to Habib Balian, his staff, and the board of directors under the leadership of Glendora Councilman Doug Tessitor. The bridge spans the San Gabriel Valley’s past and future through its art and function. It is a wonderful gift to residents and businesses.

Cynthia Kurtz is the president and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. She can be reached at .

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