The Gerald Desmond Bridge is in Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, US. The bridge replacement project aims to replace the existing bridge with a new one. The new bridge is the first cable styled vehicular bridge being built in California.

The project is a team effort of Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach. The SFI joint venture (JV) is the contractor for the project. Approximately $1.28bn is being invested in the project, for which construction began in January 2013. The project is expected to be completed by late 2017.

Upon its completion, the project will cater to the future transportation and cargo demands of the region. It will also provide job opportunities and contribute to the area’s economic development.

Construction activities will create an average of 3,000 annual jobs and generate more than $2bn in economic activity in south California. The new bridge will become a key infrastructure in the region and help retain the area as a major trade centre.

Bridge history and traffic congestion problems

The Gerald Desmond Bridge is recognised as a National Highway System Intermodal Connector Route and included in the Federal Strategic Highway Network. The bridge is an important structure serving the nation, Los Angeles, Long Beach and their ports.

Opened in 1968, the existing bridge is the symbol of Long Beach and a landmark of California. It connects Long Beach Freeway SR 710 with Terminal Island at Port of Long Beach, providing important access to Long Beach downtown and neighbouring communities.

“Construction activities will create an average of 3,000 annual jobs and generate more than $2bn in economic activity.”

The bridge is also an important business corridor serving 15% of all the imported waterborne cargo in the nation. The 44-year-old bridge has, however, reached the end of its design lifespan. It is not capable of carrying the increasing traffic volumes.

It is estimated that around 68,000 trips are made a day and approximately 18 million trips a year on the bridge. This is beyond the design capacity of the structure. With the increase in international business in the region and ever growing commuter traffic, which accounts for 75% of the bridge traffic, traffic congestion on the bridge is expected to get worse.

The old bridge, though safe, is in need of costly maintenance and even if repaired will not be long-lasting. Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach, therefore, decided to replace the bridge. The old bridge will be demolished once the new bridge is complete.

The new cable styled bridge will connect Ocean Boulevard to State Route (SR) 710 Freeway in Long Beach. The bridge is an extension of SR 710 to SR 47 in Terminal Island. It is designed to have a lifespan of 100 years.

The plan to replace the bridge was approved by Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners in August 2010. The project was approved by the California Transportation Commission in November 2010. The new Gerald Desmond Bridge will be included in the state highway system and become the property of the state.

New Gerald Desmond Bridge design

The new bridge will be 610m (2,001ft) long. It will include 305m (1,001ft) of main span and 2km (6,562ft) long access viaducts. The bridge will also include 152.5m-long side spans and around 1,000m-long approaches on either end. It will be built parallel to and north of the existing bridge and include two 150m (492ft) high mast towers.

The new state-of-the-art bridge will include several upgrades. The old bridge has four lanes (two lanes in each direction) and a climbing lane. To better serve traffic, the new bridge will be wider with six lanes (three lanes in each direction) and include emergency lanes on either side.

Steep grades and a lack of shoulders on the existing bridge often resulted in the failure of vehicles causing congestion and delaying emergency vehicles. The emergency lanes of the new bridge will minimise delays, enhance safety and provide access for the emergency vehicles.

The vertical clearance of the bridge will be increased from 155ft (47m) to 200ft (61m) above water. This will enable the entry of the latest Post Panamax ships into the port.

Construction of the major Californian bridge

The earthquake-resistant bridge structure will have towers with semi-circular shaped concrete columns, which are linked by steel shear and tension links. Steel edge girders placed longitudinally and steel floor beams placed transversely will support the bridge deck.

“Upon its completion, the project will cater to the future transportation and cargo demands of the region.”

The deck on the girder side will be supported by a 12m-spaced splayed cables. The bridge’s approaches will be made of concrete segmental box girders. Construction of the bridge will also include approaches and ramps. Design efforts have been focused on the easy transition of alignment from approaches to the bridge and a smooth inclusion of on and off ramps. Pedestrian and bike paths will also be constructed.

Terminal Island East Interchange and the I-710/ Interchange will be rebuilt. The interchanges connecting Ocean Boulevard and SR 710, Pico Avenue, Pier E and Pier D will also be upgraded.

The complex project plans to continue road, rail and cargo services from and to the port of Long Beach during the construction period. Railway lines, oil wells and thermo power plants along with many other subservices interfering with the project will be relocated.

Gerald Desmond Bridge contractors and funding

In July 2012, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners awarded a $649.5m design-build contract for the project to the SFI JV. The JV is owned by Shimmick Construction (40%), FCC Construction (30%) and Impregilo (30%). Subcontractors include Arup North America and Biggs Cardosa Associates.

Denmark-based DISSING+WEITLING is the architect for the bridge. Preliminary engineering services for the main span and approaches of the bridge were provided by the Parsons Corporation and HNTB JV.

The project is being financed through a $325m loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), $17.3m from LA Metro, $117m from Port of Long Beach, $153.7m from state/Caltrans funds and $675m from federal funds.

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