First published in the Nov. 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
When traffic returned to Burbank Boulevard, people cheered.
For any other section of Los Angeles, the sight would have been an oddity. But for Burbank community members watching as vehicles rolled across the Burbank Boulevard bridge, the presence of cars — signaling the return of the bridge itself — presented a cause for celebration.
The bridge reopened on Wednesday, once again connecting two major areas of the city with each other and the 5 Freeway. The California Department of Transportation demolished the bridge in April 2020 as part of its effort to widen the freeway with new carpool lanes, which are projected to open in 2022.
Expanded to fit the widened freeway, the Burbank Boulevard bridge now has a total of 10 lanes, up from six. Vehicles can use three of the lanes in each direction to travel along the boulevard, and two in each direction to turn toward the 5 Freeway. The bridge also includes a bike lane and a 10-foot sidewalk on one side.
Addressing a crowd a few hours before the bridge opened to the public on Wednesday, Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos thanked state representatives and Caltrans officials for their work on the bridge’s return, and community members for their patience during the disruptive process. The freeway widening initiative also involved closing the Empire Avenue interchange and elevating a dangerous railroad crossing at Buena Vista Street.
“We hope that this weekend is the start of many, many, many, many more vehicle trips coming to our city to support our local businesses, which we need,” Frutos said. “The city’s no longer divided. We’re now together; we can connect.”
Once Caltrans finishes adding carpool lanes between Magnolia Boulevard and Buena Vista Street, motorists on the 5 Freeway will have access to those lanes between Glendale and Santa Clarita.
The Road Kings of Burbank, a charitable organization that often displays its members’ antique cars at community events, were among the first to hit the pavement, inviting government officials to ride in their stylish vehicles across part of the newly finished bridge. City Council members, state officials and Caltrans representatives loaded themselves into the cars, which were lined up in a row on the bridge.
Then each vehicle took a lap around the bridge as their engines roared and the crowd cheered.