Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Long Beach Port Formally Launches Bridge Replacement Project

While there were not the familiar trappings of golden shovels breaking ceremonial ground, the Port of Long Beach on Monday welcomed local, state and federal officials to formally kick off the $950 million replacement of the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Port officials have spent more than a decade planning, developing and scraping together numerous funding sources to replace the 1960s-era bridge that now serves as more of a bottleneck than a key arterial roadway for the majority of Southern California port cargo.

The existing 156-foot-tall Gerald Desmond Bridge, which is named after a former city official, links the port-area Terminal Island to Long Beach proper. The 40-year-old steel and concrete structure is a main ingress and egress point for trucks into the port. Upwards of 60,000 vehicles a day cross it's five-lane, 1,200-foot-long span over the port's main channel.

More than 15 percent of the nation's containerized cargo flows over the bridge each year and despite numerous upgrades by the port, the current bridge remains under-capacity and continues to deteriorate. In addition, the bridge also lacks sufficient height to allow passage by the most modern cargo vessels – essentially cutting off terminals located along the port's back channels.

Described as one of the port-area's most critical infrastructure needs, the new bridge will be taller, wider and safer than the current bridge, according to port officials. The current funding package put together by the port includes: $500 million from California state highway and transportation bond funds; $340 million from federal sources; $114 million from the port; and, $28 million from Los Angeles County.

"As resources become increasingly scarce, addressing our current and future needs will require new forms of partnerships among government agencies and our private sector partners," said California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Secretary Dale Bonner at Monday's "project launch" ceremony at the port.

Bonner added that projects like the bridge replacement would serve as the model for ways to continue investing in infrastructure, improving the environment, and increasing the operational efficiencies and overall competitiveness of the San Pedro Bay ports.

“The new Gerald Desmond Bridge will reduce congestion, enhance safety and improve traffic flow,” said Caltrans Director Cindy McKim. “By undertaking bold projects like this one, we’re improving mobility and encouraging commerce across California.”
The Port and Caltrans are seeking firms that are qualified to take on the job to both design and build the new bridge. Design and preliminary construction could begin by mid-2011 and construction of the main bridge supports could start in early 2012.

“The new bridge will be designed to handle the traffic and cargo needs of the region – not just now, but well into the future,” said Nick Sramek, President of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “It's time to get started!”