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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 63· No. 1 > FHWA Helps Restore Historic Neighborhood in Los Angeles

July/August 1999
Vol. 63· No. 1

FHWA Helps Restore Historic Neighborhood in Los Angeles

by Patricia Reid

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) joined the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the city of Los Angeles, and neighborhood redevelopment agencies to restore some historical ambiance to the Adams-Figuroa Historic District in Los Angeles. FHWA provided most of the funding for the $1 million lighting and landscaping project.

The project won California's 1999 statewide Excellence in Transportation Award for historic preservation/cultural enhancement.

On March 18, 1999, Caltrans officials and Los Angeles community leaders celebrated the completion of the project with a ceremonial "relighting" of 33 Victorian streetlights. The reproductions of historical lampposts (circa 1906) were recently installed on both sides of Figuroa Street between 23rd and 27th streets.

"This unique project is an example of how federal, state, and local agencies can work together to provide community improvements in a large metropolitan area," said Bob Sassaman, interim director of Caltrans District 7. "We are pleased to have played a role in this improvement project, which has helped to restore the historical grandeur of the Adams-Figuroa neighborhood."

The project started in 1991 when the city asked Caltrans to widen Figuroa Street near Adams Boulevard as part of the overall traffic management plan for the Harbor Transitway construction project. The Caltrans project team assessed the potential effect of the widening project on the Adams-Figuroa Historic District. They determined that the removal of sidewalks, 29 historical streetlights from 1906, and mature trees along the street would significantly alter the historical integrity of the area. So, Caltrans worked cooperatively with the city to develop a landscaping plan that would restore the traditional appearance of the area.

Caltrans ordered 33 reproductions from Union Metal of Canton, Ohio C the same company that manufactured the original lights. Union Metal had the wooden molds used to make the original lampposts in a factory storage room. The reproductions closely resemble the original streetlights from 1906, but they meet the city's specifications for illumination and long-term maintenance and utility expenses.

The landscaping improvements included the installation of more 1906-style lights than were removed during the construction. Also, 30 large Sycamore trees were planted between the lights. New sidewalks were installed, and new red-textured pavement was installed in front of the historic Auto Club Building. Modern streetlights were also installed on all four corners of the intersection of Adams Boulevard and Figuroa Street to better illuminate the area.

The new landscaping on Figuroa Street between 21st and 33rd streets and on Adams Boulevard between I-110 and Figuroa dramatically enhances the appearance of the neighborhood and restores some of its historical ambiance.

Patricia Reid is the information officer for Caltrans District 7 in Los Angeles.
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