The process of lowering the Gerald Desmond Bridge’s center span began Saturday, marking the first step toward demolishing a one-time critical traffic link that spurred the Port of Long Beach’s growth over much of the last 50 years.
The 410-foot-long main span was disconnected from the rest of the bridge and on Saturday was being slowly brought down in one piece to be placed onto a massive barge in the water 155 feet below. The entire operation is requiring a 48-hour closure of the Port’s Back Channel, the waterway beneath the bridge.
The Gerald Desmond Bridge closed in early October 2020 when its replacement opened. Full demolition is expected to be concluded by the end of 2023, with no further significant waterway impacts anticipated.
“This moment has been 20 years in the making, from the time we started planning to replace the Gerald Desmond with a taller, wider and safer bridge that would allow the Port of Long Beach to remain competitive for years to come,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “Like its predecessor, the new bridge is a critical link in the global supply chain and Southern California’s regional transportation network.”
“The new bridge serves as a symbol of our ongoing commitment to strengthening our infrastructure and maintaining our position as a leader in trans-Pacific trade,” said Steven Neal, President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “The Gerald Desmond Bridge served this Port well for over 50 years, and we look ahead to how its replacement will usher us into a new era of growth.”
Opened in 1968, the Gerald Desmond Bridge was named after a former Long Beach city attorney and city councilman who helped secure funding to build the 5,134-foot-long through-arch bridge that connected Long Beach and Terminal Island. Desmond died when the bridge that would be eventually named for him was under construction.
Construction for the new bridge started in 2013, but planning had started more than 10 years prior. The replacement bridge, designed to last 100 years, is higher and wider with three traffic lanes in each direction and emergency shoulders to improve truck and commuter traffic throughout the harbor. Its 205-foot clearance over the water will allow large cargo vessels to more easily access the Inner Harbor. As the first cable-stayed span in California, the new bridge has already become an icon in Southern California’s skyline with its 515-foot-tall support towers and a colored LED lighting system.
The Port awarded a contract in July 2021 to Kiewit West Inc. to dismantle and remove the Gerald Desmond Bridge. Funding for the $59.9 million demolition project is included within the overall $1.57 billion budget to design and build the replacement bridge.
Metal and other materials removed from the old bridge will be recycled or salvaged.
The Port of Long Beach is one of the world’s premier seaports, a gateway for trans-Pacific trade and a trailblazer in goods movement and environmental stewardship. As the second-busiest container seaport in the United States, the Port handles trade valued at more than $200 billion annually and supports 2.6 million trade-related jobs across the nation, including 575,000 in Southern California.