Hermosa Beach pedestrian bridge over PCH focus of forum

About 35 people attended an informational meeting last week about building one or more pedestrian bridges over Pacific Coast Highway. Mayor Jeff Duclos has championed the idea in order to make the crossing more safe, link both the east and west sides of the city and create a new city landmark.

The meeting on Oct. 24 at the community center included a discussion about the possibility of grants covering the cost of such a project as well as a slideshow of pedestrian bridges from around the world of various styles.

PCH bridge, Dana Point

The Dana Point pedestrian bridge was approved by the Dana Point City Council in 2006 as part of a $7 million grant-funded project to widen Pacific Coast Highway. Photo credit to OC Weekly Blog.

“I always say dream big and design within reason because the creativity can come out,” said Brian Hannegan of RRM Design Group, one of three panelists at the forum, all of whom have experience working with the city of Hermosa Beach.

“Though you might not do these big, long spiraling bridges, the design is real important because you’re going to live with it everyday,” Hannegan said.

The city of Dana Point, for example, used $3.1 million in non-city money to put up a bridge over the highway, which requires $20,000 in yearly maintenance and operations costs, panelists said.

Gina Overholt, an independent grant writer, said constructing a pedestrian bridge in Hermosa Beach could qualify for grants related to sustainability, air quality, and ADA access.

“It’s a regional project,” Overholt said. “You have to think in a much broader stroke than merely as utility to the city.”

Steve Lantz, a consultant to the South Bay Council of Governments, has worked on a number of bridge crossings in Southern California. Lantz said Caltrans must issue permits to construct a bridge spanning PCH, and the city will have to compile a project study report with traffic and pedestrian data in order to convince Caltrans that a crosswalk isn’t good enough for safety.

“If you’re going to change that and involve the community with a symbol for your town, you need to have compelling and clear and defensible arguments,” Lantz said. “The data is really, really important. If you can’t show a need to separate the people from the cars, it’s tough to get a mobility grant. You just won’t compete.”

The award-winning twisted steel pedestrian bridge over the Craigieburn Bypass Freeway in Australia was designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and photographed by John Gollins. “A bridge is not just a simple, straight line, though it can be that, too,” said Brian Hannegan of RRM Design Group, while showing slide images of pedestrian bridges from around the world at last week’s Pacific Coast Highway Bridge Forum at the community center. The different bridge images were meant to stimulate design ideas among those in attendance and be inspirational, Hannegan said.

It’s unclear where on PCH a bridge or bridges might be constructed. The city owns property at the southwest corner of Pier Avenue and at northeast corner Aviation Boulevard, making for the possibility of a diagonal bridge between the two locations. There’s also the possibility of building a bridge at Artesia Boulevard or at 16th Street. Duclos envisions future “scoping sessions” involving community members to provide input on any and all potential bridge sites.

The idea of a tunnel connecting both sides of PCH was largely shot down at the forum. Lantz said a tunnel beneath a roadway typically requires more operational cost to maintain than a bridge.

“A tunnel must be open and big so more than one person uses it at a time, so you never feel like you’re the only one,” Lantz said.

“Put it in the air and make it gorgeous,” Lantz said.

Duclos organized the forum, which was moderated by Public Works Commission Julian Katz. Those in attendance who spoke expressed support for the project as well as concern about the cost.

“I think what we’re trying to do is create a template here where we as a city can talk in real terms and get real solid information on concepts that we think might have validity in moving forward before they go to the city,” Duclos told those in attendance. “It is a much more bottom-up way of developing our city and coming up with a solution that we all want.”

Anyone interested in participating in the research and conceptual development of a pedestrian bridge can contact Duclos at jeff@jeffduclos.com.

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Written by: Easy Reader Staff

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