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Long Beach celebrates completion of Gerald Desmond Bridge successor

The Port of Long Beach and the city itself finally held the celebration it had long been waiting for.

Officials for the port and the city held a live-streamed grand opening ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge — the second highest cable-stayed bridge in the country and a piece of infrastructure that will be an integral part of the nation’s economy — on Friday, Oct. 2, with the festivities playing out on land, in the sea and through the sky.

While officials and VIPs stood atop the bridge to celebrate, the ceremony was not open to the public because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The bridge has not officially opened yet, either. That will come Monday, Oct. 5, after a lane change from the old bridge to the new one gets finished this weekend.

But still, Friday was a big deal for the city and the port, with the as-yet unnamed bridge connecting “Long Beach to the rest of the country,” said Mayor Robert Garcia.

To christen the bridge, after nearly a decade in the making, a procession of 30 low- and zero-emissions cargo trucks took the honorary “first drive” across the bridge, followed closely by 34 classic cars from different eras — meant to capture the port’s 109-year history. Five planes from Torrance’s Tiger Squadron performed a flyover, in formation, to pay tribute to Terminal Island’s legacy as a former U.S. Navy base. And a boat parade saw water-spouting fireboats, police boats and tall ships circle the waters below.

City and port leaders, meanwhile, rejoiced at the $1.46 billion bridge’s completion.

“This is a historic day for our city and for the nation,” Garcia said. “We know that this project is a phenomenal marvel of architecture and infrastructure. It connects our port and the world to each other.”

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The new bridge — consisting of 18 million pounds of structural steel and 75 million pounds of rebar — has two towers standing 515 feet tall, making the bridge the largest structure in Long Beach and casting a shadow over the original Gerald Desmond Bridge, which served the nation’s second-largest port for 52 years.

Toward the end of its run, the Gerald Desmond had seen more than 15% of the nation’s imported cargo, valued at $170 billion, travel across it. That task will now fall to its successor

“This new bridge is another major milestone in the Port’s ongoing commitment to remain the most advanced and most competitive port in the world,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “It is much more than a convenient roadway. It is a critical link in the global movement of cargo.

“It is,” he added, “a bridge to everywhere.”

The project to replace the old Gerald Desmond Bridge — too low to serve the larger cargo ships of today and wearing down from increasing truck traffic — began in 2013, with more than 350 massive concrete pilings providing the foundations for the monumental undertaking.

The new bridge, with its 2,000-foot span, is intended to last 100 years, requiring little maintenance, officials have said, thanks in part to special joints at each end of the main span that

“The opening of the bridge,” said SFI project manger Bob Schraeder, “is the result of hundreds of thousands of hours of work from skilled craftsmen, engineers, designers and project managers.”

When the bride opens on Monday, an estimated 60,000 cars and trucks will begin traversing it each a day, connecting Long Beach to the port and, via the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro.

“Today, the sun is shining on our new bridge, our magnificent port and our great city,” said Frank Colonna, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “Looking down from this extraordinary structure, I can tell you it was certainly worth the wait.”

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Source: Orange County Register

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