ZweigWhite CE News Structural Engineer Rebuilding America's Infrastructure  

Construction begins on new Gerald Desmond Bridge

LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Officials celebrated the kickoff of construction on a $1 billion project to replace the primary bridge at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., a four-year effort that will enhance a critical link in the nation's trade system and improve an important transportation corridor for California.

Under the theme "Building Bridges - Raising Economies," federal, state and local officials gathered near the base of the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge for a ceremony that included two helicopters hovering at 515 feet — the eventual height of the two new towers. The new bridge will allow the world's biggest cargo ships to reach the inner berths at the Port of Long Beach and simultaneously expand a strategic highway that carries 15 percent of all goods coming into the United States.

With twin 50-story-high towers, the new bridge will be one of the tallest cable-stayed bridges in the United States and the first of its kind in California. The new bridge will raise the clearance over the channel from 155 feet to 200 feet, allowing the world's largest ships to enter the Port's inner harbor.

The replacement project will allow the Gerald Desmond Bridge to remain in use while the new bridge is erected adjacent to it. The new bridge is among $4.5 billion in current and planned improvements to further modernize the Port of Long Beach and keep it competitive. Work on the new bridge will generate, on average, 3,000 jobs a year during construction.

With deep channels and tall cranes, the Port of Long Beach already is serving the world's biggest cargo ships at some of its piers, but the height of the Gerald Desmond Bridge restricts these large ships from entering the inner channels.

The new bridge also will improve speed and efficiency for land-based cargo movement and commuters. Commuters account for three-quarters of bridge traffic, which is nearly 70,000 daily vehicle trips. The Gerald Desmond Bridge, which opened in 1968, provides a critical link from Terminal Island and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach and the 710 Freeway.

Other features of the new bridge include a bike path, pedestrian path and scenic observation decks 200 feet above the water. Construction costs on the new bridge will be about $650 million, with site preparation, demolition of the existing bridge and other considerations bringing the total project to $1 billion.

This project is a joint effort of the California Department of Transportation and the Port of Long Beach with funding also from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A joint venture team headed by Shimmick Construction Co. Inc., FCC Construction S.A. and Impregilo S.p.A. (SFI) is the primary contractor for the design and construction of the replacement bridge.

More information about the new Gerald Desmond Bridge is available at

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