New Port of Long Beach bridge reaches milestone

Almost exactly two years after construction began on the main span of the massive new bridge at the Port of Long Beach, crews on Tuesday lifted into place the last major steel floor beam.

Assembling the main span over the Southern California port’s back channel has been one of the most complex tasks of the project. The process began April 26, 2018, with lifting the initial bolted sections of steel flooring and attaching them with the first set of cables to the two 515-foot towers.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously voted in August 2010 to replace the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge, which was completed in 1968. Work on the new bridge, which Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero has called “the bridge to everywhere,” began in 2013.

A year ago progress on the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement was evident. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

“Fifteen percent of imported cargo goes through that bridge. There is not one congressional district that does not receive a container going across that bridge,” Cordero told FreightWaves in 2018. 

Main span construction requires deck sections to be added equally on both sides of the towers. Each of the 117 floor beams is about 140 feet long and 10 feet tall, weighs about 32 tons, and is connected to steel girders with more than 200 bolts. Once a section of floor beams is bolted together, crews attach it to the tower with dozens of specially constructed cables, then place precast concrete road deck panels. In total, 117 floor beams support a main span that rises 205 feet over the water.

The $1.47 billion project raises the bridge’s clearance 50 feet from the current 155 feet. When completed, the new cable-stayed bridge will have six vehicle lanes and four emergency shoulders and more efficient transition ramps and connectors to improve traffic flow. Port officials say the new bridge will have greater resiliency in an earthquake and a minimum 100-year lifespan.

The bridge is a joint project between the port and the California Department of Transportation, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Several more major tasks need to be completed before California’s first cable-stayed bridge for vehicles can open later this year. They include:

  • A “post-tensioning” process in which cables are installed horizontally through the floor and pulled tight to increase the strength of the main span concrete deck.
  • Construction of a bike and pedestrian path on the ocean-facing side of the bridge.
  • Further calibration and tensioning of the 80 cables holding the road deck.
  • A final concrete overlay to provide protection against daily traffic use.