After seven years of construction, the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge is finally set to open.
The Port of Long Beach will hold a ceremony to celebrate the $1.46 billion bridge’s completion on Friday, Oct. 2, with the span slated to officially open on Monday, Oct. 5.
There will be a traffic closure in the area from Friday, Oct. 2, to Sunday, Oct. 4, to switch over lanes to connect the bridge to the 710 freeway, downtown Long Beach and Terminal Island.
A new name for the bridge has yet to be chosen. Until then, the “Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge” moniker will remain.
The original bridge opened in 1968; a replacement was necessary, officials said, because the structure could no longer keep up with the demands of growing vehicle traffic passing over it — which include more than 60,000 trips per day — or the larger ships traveling under it.
So the new structure will be taller and wider than its forebear. It will have 205 feet of clearance over the water — 50 more than the current bridge — and have three lanes in each direction plus safety lanes. And it’s estimated to have a 100-year lifespan.
Officials have touted the bridge as “a critical structure serving the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, City of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Orange counties, and the nation.”
The current bridge carries 15% of all container-shipped goods coming into the U.S.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden visited the site earlier this year, calling the project “critically, critically important.”
“Here’s the deal: this is the future,” Biden said at the time. “The future of the country is overseas trade.”
And city leaders have also noted how the bridge — which will connect Long Beach and Terminal Island — will redefine the city’s skyline with two massive towers, which will be attached with 40 cables each alongside the 1.5-mile roadway. It’s set to be the second-tallest cable-stayed bridge in the U.S., with the highest vertical clearance of any cable-stayed bridge in the U.S.
“This new bridge is an incredible icon that will connect Long Beach to the world,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “We will continue to build infrastructure and drive economic growth across the country.”
The bridge’s opening comes after years of delays. In its second year of construction, officials announced that construction would be delayed by 12-to-18 months because of issues relocating utility lines, capping old oil wells, soil inconsistency and subsidence issues on Terminal Island.
Work didn’t get easier from there. The projected reopening date stretched out to 2018, 2019 and then to 2020. While port officials said they hoped to celebrate a virtual opening ceremony over Labor Day weekend, that too was postponed.
Now, though, the bridge is here to stay — at least for the next 100 years.
“The new bridge is an engineering marvel and a point of pride for the tens of thousands of workers whose livelihoods are connected to the Port of Long Beach,” port Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “We’re very excited by what this bridge to everywhere means to our Port and the national economy.”