Shoreline Drive

Long Beach, California

Connecting the Interstate 710 Freeway via Shoemaker Bridge to Alamitos Avenue on the eastern edge of the Downtown, Shoreline Drive takes many different characters, reflecting its various eras of expansion. Historically, once part of the Interstate 710 Freeway the asset is now largely owned by the City of Long Beach since the 90’s. The first two-third mile length of Shoreline Drive was developed at the northwest corner of the Downtown, extending the I-710 Freeway into the commercial core of Long Beach, terminating at West Ocean Boulevard adjacent to the Los Angeles River. The transportation project doubled as an urban renewal project typical across the nation after the Second World War as construction of the initial length was preceded by the obliteration of a dozen city blocks of homes, apartments and businesses.

The next half-mile length extended to the south and east, through the former Magnolia Beach area, also more colorfully known as the “Jungle”. The neighborhood was one of the closest civilian populations to the Navy installations on Terminal Island, and the two worked synergistically to form the “seedy part of town”. In the fifties, the city considered replacing large portions of the area with surface parking and ship landings to sterilize the area before ultimately extending Shoreline Drive through it. Now this length of Shoreline Drive is flanked by almost a dozen crystalline office towers. Shoreline Drive take a distinctly more urban character as it is a concrete canyon served by on and off-ramps with overpasses connecting Ocean Boulevard to the Catalina Landing area to the south.

Originally the urban freeway configuration of Shoreline Drive extended another third of a mile to South Pine Avenue, with a massive interchange at Queensway Bridge. That portion was de-engineered in the 80’s; with flyovers and off-ramps removed in exchange for new sidewalks and bike paths. Now the last mile portion of Shoreline Drive provides the foundation for the Long Beach Grand Prix racetrack, the largest annual event in the city. Originally, part of the Pacific Ocean the Downtown waterfront was extended south from Seaside Way as portions of the Port of Long Beach were expanded through land reclamation. Shoreline Drive currently severs Downtown Long Beach off from the Los Angeles River and Pacific Ocean while leaving a wake of destruction of former neighborhoods and natural habitats. 

Long Beach Shoreline Drive
The length of Shoreline Drive flanked by almost a dozen crystalline office towers. Source: City Fabrick

At the 2012 Transportation Summit held in Long Beach, California, Highways-to-Boulevards initiative members and CNU members gathered to present ideas and work towards reforming transportation standards that obstruct urbanism. The initiative met as a small working group to address barriers in the standard transportation planning process as well as consider boulevard retrofit recommendations for Shoreline Drive located in Long Beach, California. Working group members considered the age and design of the infrastructure, redevelopment potential, potential cost savings, ability to improve both overall mobility and local access and community support. The following report details the history of Shoreline Drive, precedents applicable to Shoreline Drive, and preliminary considerations and guiding principles for Shoreline Drive.

Long Beach nonprofit design studio, City Fabrick provided the Shoreline Drive background for the CNU Transportation Summit and subsequently developed the Shoreline Drive Case Study into Highways to Boulevard: Reimagining Shoreline Drive. The plan attempts to create a street network that supports community and place while sustaining the various different events [including Grand Prix and Pride utilize the roadway] and many major waterfront destinations including the Aquarium of the Pacific, Convention Center and Performing Arts Center. Overall the plan calls for transforming Shoreline Drive into a tree-lined boulevard with active mobility facilities and community amenities.

Extending the original Downtown streets into the waterfront to Shoreline Drive will better connect residents, visitors and workers to the Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles River while dispersing traffic throughout the street network.  New public open space is created by expanding Cesar Chavez Park and the Marina Green while the south waterfront is extended along the western edge of the Downtown. Other surplus land and under-utilized parcels are better positioned for public and private development with new frontages and improved access.  Overall, the plan identifies goals and strategies that transforms single-mode infrastructure into a multimodal corridor with additional benefits for improving community health.

Long Beach Shoreline Drive
Changing Shoreline Drive from a freeway allows an expansion of public park space. Source: City Fabrick

The City of Long Beach is currently developing plans to replace the Shoemaker Bridge and mile of Shoreline Drive leading up the bridge as an early action project for the I-710 Freeway expansion. Initial designs called for consolidating north and southbound portions of the freeway but largely replacing in the place the interchanges and on/off-ramps, but have subsequently considered alternatives that remove the grade separations. City staff will be selecting a consultant to develop the final plans for replacing the bridge and reconfiguring Shoreline Drive and adjacent infrastructure.

Long Beach Shoreline Drive
The City's plans to replace Shoemaker Bridge provides an opportunity to redesign a mile of Shoreline Drive. Source: City Fabrick

Contact CityFabrick, a nonprofit urban design studio dedicated to improving the physical environment of Long Beach through design, planning, policy and engagement.

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