Gerald Desmond Bridge opening in California

The Gerald Desmond Bridge in California is opening for drivers.
Road Structures / October 5, 2020 1 minute 10 seconds Read
By MJ Woof
An important new bridge connection is opening to traffic in California
A grand opening event has been held for the new Gerald Desmond Bridge in California. Located in Long Beach, this cable-stayed bridge provides an important transport route for one of the busiest US ports. The new bridge replaces a through-arch bridge that was built in 1968.

A combined virtual and live grand opening was held to highlight the completion of the Gerald Desmond Bridge. This new bridge is around 610m in length, with a main span of around 305m and features two towers that are each 157m-high, making it the second-tallest cable-stayed bridge in the US and the first such bridge for vehicles in California. It features a 62.5m clearance above the channel, an increase of around 15m from the earlier bridge.

WSP USA provided programme management and construction management services for the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project on behalf of the POLB, overseeing and managing the design-build contract. The design-build project team, SFI, consisted of a joint venture between Shimmick Construction Company, FCC Construccion, and Impregilo and included ARUP North America and Biggs Cardosa Associates as the lead designers.

“The success of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project required constant collaboration among all of the organisations, including the Port of Long Beach, Caltrans and Los Angeles Metro, with everyone sharing a singular focus on leading this project to successful delivery,” said Neal Weitman, national project management/construction management director at WSP.

Work on the US$1.5 billion project began in 2013, 46 years after ground was broken for the previous bridge, which had been designed primarily for use by cargo transport and employees of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Over the next half century, bridge use far surpassed initial expectations and the vertical clearance became insufficient to accommodate modern Panamax and New Panamax cargo vessels.

With 15% of the waterborne cargo for the US transported over the Gerald Desmond Bridge every year, it serves as an essential part of the country’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, WSP president of US transportation.

The new span, which will carry Ocean Boulevard traffic and connect Terminal Island to downtown Long Beach and Interstate 710 freeway, will remain closed to traffic throughout the weekend to allow time to switch over lanes connecting both ends of the bridge to existing roadways.

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 vehicle 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. The bridge also 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.

Plans will be prepared shortly for the demolition of the existing bridge.
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