A bridge called Gerald: Grand opening held for Long Beach’s $1.5bn “marvel”

After seven years of work, the $1.5bn, Arup-designed Gerald Desmond Bridge will open today in Long Beach, California.

The 3.2km span connects the city with its port on Terminal Island. It replaces another bridge of the same name, completed in 1968.

That Gerald Desmond was too low to allow modern container ships to access the port, and too narrow to accommodate traffic demand.

It has been estimated that as much as 15% of the US’ imported goods travel across it.

The cable-stayed structure was opened by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. Speaking live on social media, he said: "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."

UK-headquartered Arup was the prime designer for the project and Engineer of Record for the main-span bridge and high-level approach viaducts. Arup also provided the cable-stayed bridge erection geometry control and erection engineering support services. 

Building the new bridge was the SFI joint venture comprising California’s Shimmick Construction, Spain’s FCC Construction and Italy’s Impregilo (now Webuild). 

The bridge was jointly funded by the Port of Long Beach, state transport authority Caltrans, the US Department of Transportation and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

It will serve one of the largest port complexes in the world. According to the port’s estimates, more than 2.5 million jobs throughout America are related to it, and every year, it handles cargo valued at more than $170bn.

As well as its six lanes, the bridge will include a bicycle and walking path. It holds the record for the highest deck of any cable-stayed bridge in the US. It is designed to last 100 years and incorporates German-design joints at each end of the main span that can move up to 2m in three directions, allowing the bridge to survive an earthquake.

The livestreamed opening ceremony was marked by a "first drive" over the bridge led by 30 low and zero-emissions cargo trucks representing the port’s terminals and major shipping lines, and 34 classic cars highlighting the 109-year history of the port.

Image: The ceremonial "first-drive", led by low emission vehicles (Port of Long Beach)

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