Port of Long Beach Celebrates Completion of Long-Awaited Harbor Bridge

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Image courtesy Port of Long Beach

Published Oct 2, 2020 6:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

On October 2, the Port of Long Beach celebrated the opening of its long-awaited harbor bridge replacement for Interstate 710, which passes over the port's Back Channel. 

Due to COVID-19, the opening ceremony was held virtually, with no public gathering on the bridge. However, several socially-distanced elements remained on the schedule, including a flyover by vintage aircraft, a procession of clean cargo trucks, a classic car parade and a boat flotilla. The procession included the debut of Volvo’s battery-electric heavy-duty cargo truck, which is part of the Port of Long Beach's long term clean air plan.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia provided the dedication for the new structure, which is California’s first cable-stayed bridge for road traffic. Its bridge deck also ranks as the highest for a cable-stayed bridge in the United States. The port says that it will provide a much-improved transportation link for commuters in nearby coastal communities. 

Images courtesy Port of Long Beach

“This is a historic day for our city and for the nation,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “We know that this project is a phenomenal marvel of architecture and infrastructure. It connects our Port and the world to each other. All of the commerce that we depend on will go over this bridge - connecting Long Beach to the rest of the country.”

The two-mile-long bridge will open to traffic on Monday morning, marking the end of a nearly 10-year, $1.5 billion effort to replace the original 52-year-old Gerald Desmond Bridge, which was too narrow and too low to accommodate modern roadway cargo traffic and the larger vessels that now arrive at Port of Long Beach. The existing bridge was nearing of its expected lifespan, and the port said that it needed to be replaced to provide a reliable connection to Terminal Island. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make up the busiest container complex in the nation, and more than 15 percent of America's containerized imports travel over the bridge route.

Given its location in an area famous for seismic activity, the bridge was built to an advanced earthquake-resistant design. Special joints at each end of the main span can move up to six feet in three directions during a very strong earthquake. The port says that the design provides flexibility and isolation to let bridge segments move independently, reducing the probability of damage. The new bridge is designed to last 100 years with minimal maintenance.

The project was jointly funded by the Port of Long Beach, Caltrans, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.