It takes time and skill to weave authentic Native American baskets. But when those baskets are made of a few hundred tons of concrete and steel, and are being constructed next to a busy freeway, the task can be tricky.

“Working around traffic has been a big challenge on this project because of site constraints and safety,” says Gary Baker, director of construction for the Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the entity in charge of the project.

Located along the 210 Freeway in Arcadia, about 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the “baskets” are actually columns supporting the $18.6-million “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley” Gold Line Bridge, which is being built by a design-build team led by Skanska USA.

The idea for the bridge shape came from award-winning public artist Andrew Leicester, who was selected through an international competition seeking a signature bridge façade that would best embody the heritage of the region. His winning proposal features two prominent “basket” columns and a serpentine-like underbelly on the superstructure.

The bridge, which broke ground in April of last year, is taking its iconic shape and is on schedule for its December 15 target completion date.

“It looks just like the computer rendering,” says Leicester. He says once the vertical coronet-like elements that go around the top of the column rims are in place, the bridge will be as he envisioned.

But to bring his artwork from paper to construction, he says the project team had to overcome scale issues.

“In a highway environment, scale is very critical,” he says. “You can’t have things too detailed or small; they have to be very massive, and this bridge is that.”

As an example he points to the bridge supports, which had to be increased in size due to an active fault line below the project.  
“We had to beef up the columns and as a result we had to redraw the flow of the columns up into the baskets so we still have a harmonies composition,” he says.

Besides being larger than normal, the columns are equipped with Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR) technology, which officials say has never been used on bridge foundations before.