It took nearly two hours and bicycle riders made it known that they want a bike lane, but an appeal of the Environmental Impact Report for a new Gerald Desmond Bridge was denied Tuesday, clearing the way for construction plans.
The City Council unanimously turned away the appeal from the Coalition for a Safe Environment. That group opposed the Aug. 9 approval of the EIR by the Long Beach Harbor Commission. and president Jesse Marquez reiterated the group’s arguments — primarily the need for a broader Heath Impact Study — Tuesday.
The $1.1 billion construction project is expected to generate about 4,000 jobs a year for its five-year construction time. Money to pay for the bridge will come from federal, state, county and local sources.
The new bridge would be wider — three lanes instead of two in each direction plus a shoulder on each side to accommodate breakdowns and accidents — about 45 feet taller in the center and much safer. The original bridge was built in 1968 and recently was rated in a bridge safety survey at 43 — replacement is recommended for anything with a score of 50 or less.
Robert Kanter, the port’s director of environmental affairs, offered a compromise for the bicycling community, saying the port would request potential designers to offer a bike lane alternative on the bridge, but noted that there are no bike trail connections on either side of the bridge. He said the port staff would recommend to the Harbor Commission that a new bike trail be constructed along Ninth Street, connecting to Rainbow Harbor and the Port of Los Angeles.
Mark Bixby and other bicycle community representatives argued that the new bridge is designed to last for 100 years, and it made sense to add the bike lane now. But the council did not have the option to add conditions to the project — it could only deny the appeal or sustain it and cause the EIR to be redone.
As was the case at the Harbor Commission hearing, the bulk of the testimony was in support of the bridge replacement and the EIR. Several council members also praised the effort, although Seventh District Councilman James Johnson did say he wanted to see more money spent on mitigation grants.
The motion to deny the appeal passed unanimously.