A grand opening ceremony at the Port of Long Beach (POLB) has marked the completion of the new replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge. The new signature cable-stayed span enhances a critical cargo route for one of the busiest U.S. ports by replacing the adjacent arch bridge that connected the port with the mainland for more than half a century.
The new Gerald Desmond Bridge is the second-tallest cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. and the first such bridge for vehicles in California. The six-lane, 2,000-foot-long bridge provides a major regional highway connector and will improve cargo movement. The bridge incorporates a free-flowing, dedicated double left turn on the inside track of traffic (known as a “Texas U-turn”) that allows trucks to keep moving and not have to wait at a signal.
Work on the $1.5 billion project began in 2013, 46 years after ground was broken for the previous bridge. Over the next half century, bridge use far surpassed initial expectations and the vertical clearance became insufficient to accommodate modern cargo vessels. The replacement bridge was constructed to allow more height and wider entry for today’s super-sized container ships; the deck’s 205-foot vertical clearance exceeds the clearance of the previous four-lane bridge by 50 feet.
With 15% of the nation’s waterborne cargo transported over the Gerald Desmond Bridge every year, it serves as an essential part of the U.S. trade infrastructure, as well as providing a vital route for motorists travelling between the POLB and surrounding communities.
“The importance of this bridge cannot be understated, and not just for commuters who will feel the immediate impact of shorter travel times,” said Joseph Pulicare, president of U.S. transportation at WSP USA, the company that managed the project on behalf of the POLB.
In addition to providing the immediate benefit of reducing truck turn times, the new bridge features emergency lanes on both the inner and outer shoulders in each direction to reduce traffic delays and safety hazards from accidents and breakdowns, a reduction in the previous bridge’s steep grades to improve traffic flow, and a dedicated bicycle path and pedestrian walkway that features scenic overlooks.
“This is a historic day for our city,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “We know that this project is just a phenomenal architecture and infrastructure marvel. Not only does it connect Long Beach to Los Angeles, but it connects our port to the world.”