First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
A snowy egret practically joined a news conference this week at the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, as if to underscore the picturesque sights that await the pedestrians and cyclists who will eventually use the Garden River Bridge project that elected officials were discussing.
The project received a major boost this week, as Assemblywoman Laura Friedman announced that she’d helped secure an additional $10 million in state funding for the bridge, on top of the $20 million allocation she’d previously helped arrange. Additionally, Sacramento has committed an extra $5 million for the Colorado Street undercrossing.
Both projects are meant to build bridges between Glendale and Los Angeles, affording residents of either city more options to visit each other without having to get in a car and use the freeway. Just across the Los Angeles River from Glendale are destinations like the Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park and its observatory, recreational soccer fields and a dog park. Also nearby, toward Colorado Street, lies Atwater Village.
“Living in Glendale, as I have for over 20 years, many of us who live on the east side of the L.A. River have always known that we are literally cut off from easy connection to some of the most important amenities in all of the county of Los Angeles,” Friedman, a Glendale Democrat, said Wednesday morning. “For someone in Glendale, to get to all of those amenities means getting on the highway, on the 134 [Freeway], or crowding an already congested arterial street — Los Feliz Boulevard — or going all the way through the city of Burbank and driving through Griffith Park to get to the other side. We are cut off by a river and by a freeway from the city of Los Angeles.”
Friedman was joined Wednesday by Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Nithya Raman from L.A., and Mayor Paula Devine and Councilman Ara Najarian of Glendale.
“This will become a place where people will gather, discover and explore the best of what our beautiful Glendale and its surrounding areas have to offer,” Devine said. “This is a very exciting day.”
The added funding contributes to a concerted effort by various local governments and entities, including the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to shore up active transit options and the quantity of links between cities at a time when politicians, planners and activists are trying to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Friedman observed that within the immediate area of the Riverwalk there were around 100,000 residents who, to access public amenities on either side of the river, must sit in traffic.
Those added vehicles miles, she said, only contribute to the pollution and climate change on which California often takes the lead in attempting to curb.
“I can’t overstate to you how important active transportation is to all of California’s goals,” she said. “We have got to change how we live to try to combat what’s happening.”
There are other tie-ins to these projects as well.
In 2020, L.A. completed the North Atwater Bridge (also known as the La Kretz Bridge), a pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian crossing that connects Atwater Village and the equestrian communities there with the L.A. River Bike Path and Griffith Park. Additionally, Metro’s Doran Street Project will install a pedestrian bridge at the L.A. River’s Confluence Park that will cross the mouth of the Verdugo Wash, connecting the East Bank Riverway Bike Path to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk.
Glendale is also exploring the possibility of a linear park that follows the full length of the Verdugo Wash to the river, where a continuous bike path would link with that bike path network.
Due to be completed in 2029, “This Garden River Bridge is going to drastically improve the quality of life, the transportation and recreation for people in this area,” said Najarian, who has served on Metro’s board for years and is currently vice chair. (He is also chair of Metrolink.)
Najarian praised Friedman for her continued advocacy for her district, which includes not only Glendale and Burbank but also Atwater Village and surrounding L.A. neighborhoods that all stand to benefit from this.
“She got us $20 million in 2017. That’s before we had this huge, billions of dollars of state surplus,” he said. “That wasn’t easy to bring it back in 2017, was it, Laura? It was very difficult. We were surprised at the city of Glendale. We were actually kind of shocked — ‘Laura did that? How did she do it?’ Well, this is how she does it, with her drive and determination.”