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What’s Taking Los Angeles River Revitalization So Long?

Posted on November 30, 2015

By Carren Jao, KCET

There was a time when the Los Angeles River was in danger of becoming a freeway. In 1988, California Assemblyman Richard Katz proposed exactly that. He figured that by turning this concrete drain system of a river into a freeway would ease traffic congestion on the Ventura and Long Beach freeways by as much as 25 percent . A preliminary report showed, Katz wasn’t off the mark. The river could support traffic lanes and congestion would be eased, but it would cost $30 million per mile.

Instead of catalyzing the construction of a freeway, however, Katz instead kickstarted advocacy for keeping the river. Just as darkness emphasizes light, former Mayor Tom Bradley eventually opposed the plan, advocating instead for a river restoration. Instead of concrete and trash, Bradley imagined parkland and open space, trails and bikeways. He eventually appointed a taskforce in the 1990s that would study turning the river into a recreational amenity.

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