Demolition starts for Gerald Desmond Bridge

The 125m-long span will be dismantled, cut and lowered onto a barge in the waters around the Port of Long Beach in the US state of California.
Highway & Network Management / July 14, 2022 1 minute Read
By David Arminas
The Gerald Desmond Bridge's centre span is lowered for removal as the first step in the bridge's demolition (image courtesy Port of Long Beach)

Demolition started this month on the old Gerald Desmond Bridge, which served the Port of Long Beach in California for more than 50 years.

During the last years of its use, it carried around 68,000 California vehicles daily but a new bridge has made it redundant.

Demolition began with the operation to remove the suspended main span section on the Back Channel, requiring a 48-hour closure of the channel to all boat traffic. The 125m-long span will be dismantled, cut and lowered onto a barge. Dismantling and removal of the main spans, steel trusses, steel plate connections, columns and access ramps will take until the end of 2023.

The port authority awarded a contract in July 2021 to Kiewit West to dismantle and remove the Gerald Desmond Bridge. Funding for the nearly US$60 million demolition project is included within the overall $1.57 billion budget that was allocated to design and build the replacement bridge.

The old bridge’s main span was disconnected from the rest of the bridge and has been slowly lowered the 50m in one piece to be placed onto a barge in the water.

The old bridge closed in 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, according to demolition contractors and port authorities.

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 1,565m-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 harbour. Its 62.5m clearance over the water will allow larger cargo vessels to more easily access the Inner Harbour than did the old bridge.

The port authority said that the new bridge - the first cable-stayed span in California - has already become an icon in Southern California’s skyline with its 157m-tall support towers and a coloured LED lighting system.

Metal and other materials removed from the old bridge will be recycled or salvaged.

The Port of Long Beach is the second-busiest container seaport in the US, handling trade valued at more than $200 billion annually.

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