A long-planned bridge over the Los Angeles River between Griffith Park and Atwater Village near Glendale for use by pedestrians, equestrians and bicyclists looks like it may finally be built after the City Council Friday unanimously voted to move forward with the project.

The bridge would help link the equestrian stables in Atwater Village to 56 miles of horse trails in Griffith Park and has been in the works as far back as 1998, when then-Councilman John Ferraro introduced a motion to build such a span.

Plans for a bridge were revived in 2011, when real estate mogul Mort La Kretz offered to donate $5 million for its construction, which was to cover all costs. But as the estimated costs rose, the project ground to a halt while city officials and the nonprofit River LA pieced together the $16.1 million now needed.

A Bureau of Engineering report shows the plan is fully funded, with sources including $3.6 million from the state, $6.9 million from the Public Works Trust Fund and $3.8 million donated by La Kretz.

All of the necessary permits have also been filed, and city has received bids from five different contractors, making the project “shovel-ready.”

The council’s vote authorizes the city attorney and the chief legislative analyst to draw up agreements and for city staff to move forward on some other issues. With three City Council committee’s also having approved the plan, all signs point to a groundbreaking soon and the bridge being opened to the public by 2019.

“Concerns have been voiced that the bridge budget could still be a moving target, but for the first time that’s not really the case because these numbers are based on bids for fully permitted designs that will be guaranteed by legally binding contracts,”‘ Jennifer Sampson of River LA told the City Council’s Transportation Committee earlier this week.

One of the goals of the bridge is to improve the area safety-wise for equestrians, who must ford the river in order to cross between the equestrian stables of Atwater Village and trails in Griffith Park.

Former City Councilman Tom LaBonge spoke before the Transportation Committee to advocate for the bridge. LaBonge has been off the council since 2015, but in 2013 introduced the motion that led to the current plan, as he used to represent the Griffith Park area.

“When you build a bridge, it’s not a wall, it’s an opportunity to connect, and this great river of ours does have some challenges when the low flow comes and slipperyness does impede people from being able to cross, so it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity,” LaBonge said.

–City News Service

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