Gerald Desmond Bridge
Gerald Desmond Bridge. Photo by John Schreiber.

Once a signature feature in the Long Beach harbor skyline, the Gerald Desmond Bridge will be dismantled starting Saturday, opening the port’s waterways to larger cargo ships.

The 5,134-foot-long bridge was closed to traffic in October 2020, when a higher replacement bridge opened. But starting Saturday, crews will begin disassembling the 410-foot portion of the bridge that crosses over the port channel.

Beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday and continuing through 6 a.m. Monday, the Port of Long Beach’s back channel will be closed to ship traffic to accommodate the work. Crews will dismantle the suspended portion of the bridge and lower it onto a barge for removal. Vehicular traffic on the new bridge will not be impacted.

The effort is only the first step in the demolition process, but the rest of the work is not expected to significantly impact vessel traffic in or out of the port. The demolition work is scheduled to be completed by late 2023.

The bridge opened in 1968, named for former city attorney and Councilman Gerald Desmond, who helped secure funding for the construction project. He died while the bridge was under construction.

The original bridge rises 155 feet above the water below. But with newer, larger ships now carrying cargo, the port needed more clearance. That led to a roughly $1.6 billion bridge-replacement project. The replacement bridge rises 205 feet above the water.

“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,” Steven Neal, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, said in a statement.

“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.”

The roughly $60 million cost of demolishing the old bridge was included in the $1.6 billion replacement-bridge project budget.

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