A Los Angeles Bridge known as “The Ribbon of Light” went dark just in time for Christmas and has remained troubled ever since. The 6th Street Bridge, a $588 million project, had ten illuminated arches that depended on electrical boxes at ground level, which were discovered open and stripped of copper wiring on December 22, 2023. Several of the bridge’s arches went dark as a result.
Copper theft targeting electrical wiring has been a long-suffered problem in the US, with the FBI warning of threats to critical infrastructure back in 2008. This is not the first target of such theft in Los Angeles. In a statement to the LA Times, a city councilman said that around $500,000 has been spent fixing theft-damaged city lighting alone. The LA Times cited 1,200 open cases of suspected wire thefts inside the city, which included not just lighting but also Metro rail cars.
In a statement to local outlet ABC7, the city’s public works department said, “We understand the impact of these thefts on the community, and we are committed to taking every necessary step to safeguard our infrastructure and maintain the safety and reliability of our city’s lighting systems.”
Connecting the city’s art district to Whittier Boulevard and Eastside, the 6th Street Bridge has been popular for social media stunts ever since it was first opened in 2022. The bridge is a four-lane viaduct with pedestrian paths on both sides and ten pairs of thirty-foot-tall concrete arches. The bridge has been periodically closed for a variety of reasons that mostly stem from misuse of the space for dangerous stunts. Police have closed the bridge to stop drivers from spinning donuts in its center and to prevent people from climbing on the arches or skateboarders from riding on them. In May of 2023, a 17-year-old fell to his death attempting to climb the arches.
The bridge remains a popular public destination. The 2022 renovation that accompanied the bridge’s construction included a twelve-acre public park below the bridge. The space is accessible from the bridge by pedestrian paths and bike paths. The space includes recreational fields and a café along the LA River, as well as a public art plaza for the display of community projects. The entire project comprises the largest bridge project in the city’s history and was the winner of the American Council of Engineering Company’s 2023 Grand Concept Award.
The 6th Street Bridge was designed by Michael Maltzen Architecture. In a release describing the project, the architecture firm said, “It seeks to overcome the silo effect caused in the past by infrastructure, countering it with the vibrancy and ‘connectiveness’ of a ‘civicstructure’.” The large concrete “ribbons” were intended to reference the arches of the old 6th Street viaduct, which had been built in 1932. The old bridge had to be demolished beginning in 2018 due to serious structural issues that resulted from “architectural unsophistication,” which left the bridge seismically unsound.
The new bridge’s design, connections between city centers and the park below, and its distinctive lighting gave it a fast reputation as one of LA’s most distinctive features. Locals are eager to see the damage repaired.