Final beam installed at Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in California

The state's first vehicular cable-stayed bridge is expected to open later this year

April 23, 2020 / 2 minutes
Final beam installed at Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in California
Image: Port of Long Beach

Almost two years after construction began on the main span of the new bridge to replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach, California, crews carefully lifted and connected into place the last major steel floor beam of the structure this week.

Several more tasks still need to be completed before the new bridge—California’s first vehicular cable-stayed bridge—is expected to open later this year.

According to the Port of Long Beach, assembling the main span over the Port’s Back Channel has been one of the most complex endeavors of the project. The process began April 26, 2018, with lifting the initial bolted sections of steel flooring and attaching this assembly with the first set of cables to the two 515-ft-tall towers. The bridge project began in 2013.

Main span construction requires deck sections to be added equally on both sides of the towers. Each floor beam is about 140 ft long and 10 ft tall, weighs about 32 tons, and is connected to other steel components known as edge 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 that form the road deck. In total, there are 117 floor beams that support a main span that rises 205 ft over the water.

Though this significant milestone brings completion one step closer, several more major tasks remain to open the bridge later this year. The Port says the new bridge will provide a higher passage for cargo ships, extra traffic lanes for trucks and cars, greater resiliency in an earthquake, and a 100-year minimum lifespan. 

Additional major tasks prior to completion include a post-tensioning process by which cables are installed horizontally through the floor and pulled tight to increase the strength of the main span concrete deck; constructing the bike-pedestrian path on the ocean-facing side of the bridge; further calibrating and tensioning of the 80 cables holding the road deck; a final concrete overlay, which provides long-term protection against daily traffic use; signing, lighting, and more.  

When fully completed, the new cable-stayed bridge will include six traffic lanes and four emergency shoulders, a higher clearance to accommodate large cargo ships, a bike and pedestrian path with scenic overlooks, and more efficient transition ramps and connectors to improve traffic flow.

The Port of Long Beach says the $1.47 billion project to replace the current Gerald Desmond Bridge will provide the Port, greater port complex, and the community a state-of-the-art bridge.

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SOURCE: Port of Long Beach

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