The Encino communities living by three dangerous bridges over the 101 Freeway will finally see some progress, as relentless advocacy prompted State Senator Henry Stern to act.
As a result, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) recently announced the expedited removal of the sagging Encino Avenue pedestrian overcrossing before Thanksgiving.
Amestoy Estates resident, Arianna Ozzanto, applauded the move by Caltrans, to take down the Encino Ave. pedestrian bridge and consider the removal of another at Amestoy Avenue and Killion Street, while focusing on improvements to Louise Avenue, calling the two aging overcrossings “structurally unsound, and pose an unnecessary taxpayer expense, as well as a broader public safety challenge for freeway drivers, housed and unhoused neighbors alike.”
Longtime Encino resident Marshall Barth noted, “The bridges are deteriorating and at any moment sections of cement could fall onto innocent commuters on the 101 freeway.”
In 2021, Senator Stern took action through the budget to ensure the expeditious removal of the Encino Avenue bridge, while redirecting the millions saved to improvements along the Louise Avenue bridge.
Stern has been working with fellow San Fernando Valley transportation advocate, California Transportation Commission leader, Hilary Norton, to have Caltrans work with the community, as well as Los Angeles City and County officials on what Stern calls “a new vision for a safe, secure, sustainable Encino.”
The new vision will focus on an active transportation plan for the Louise Avenue bridge, as well as housing, mental health care and drug treatment for the unhoused living around the other bridges.
Louise Avenue is currently unlit, inaccessible and underutilized by walkers, bicyclists and wheelchair users, while parents, students, faculty and staff at Westmark School across the 101 seek a safer route to and from school.
Senator Stern insists this vision must be broader than transportation:
“The community has been given the runaround for years but Caltrans is now listening and beginning to pull in our direction. Upgrading the transportation infrastructure won’t however, solve the underlying homelessness challenges in the area. I have confidence that Councilmember Raman will continue to work diligently to find housing solutions—now County needs to step up with treatment services and housing that heals for the unhoused in the area with severe mental illness.”