Demolition of the Gerald Desmond Bridge in the Port of Long Beach began in July with the removal of the section of the span suspended over the Back Channel, which required a 48-hour closure to all watercraft traffic.
The Back Channel was closed to vessels for one weekend, from 6 a.m. July 9 to 6 a.m. July 11, as the bridge’s 410-foot-long suspended span was dismantled and lowered onto a barge.
The bridge has been closed to vehicle traffic since its replacement opened in October 2020. Vehicle traffic on the replacement bridge was not expected to be affected by the demolition of the old span.
Removal of the span was one of the first steps in demolishing the Desmond bridge. Further significant waterway impacts are not anticipated, port officials say. Full demolition is expected to conclude by the end of 2023.
Removal of the bridge, rising 155 feet above the water, is expected to allow large cargo vessels to more easily access the port’s inner harbor. The new bridge has a 205-foot clearance over the channel.
“The Gerald Desmond Bridge served Southern California’s regional transportation network for over 50 years, carrying more than 60,000 Southern California commuters and cargo-hauling trucks every day by the time construction started on the new bridge,” Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Steven Neal said. “The new bridge is safer and serves as a symbol of the Port of Long Beach’s position as a primary gateway for trans-Pacific trade.”
Opened in 1968, the Gerald Desmond Bridge was named after a former Long Beach city attorney and city councilman who helped secure the funding needed to build the nearly mile-long bridge. Desmond died when the bridge that was eventually named for him was under construction.
A retirement ceremony was held for the old bridge in May.
An outlook on the new bridge is named in Desmond’s honor.
The port awarded a contract in July 2021 to Kiewit West Inc. to dismantle and remove main steel truss spans, steel-plate girder approaches, abutments, columns, access ramps and other pieces of the bridge. Funding for the $59.9 million demolition is included within the overall $1.57 billion-budget to design and build the replacement bridge.
Metal, concrete and other materials from the old bridge are to be recycled whenever possible, port officials have said.