bridge press conference

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero speaks to members of the media as they get a preview of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project in Long Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Within the next few weeks, the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge will likely open, providing motorists with spectacular views of the ocean, Long Beach, LA’s Harbor Area — and beyond.

But when Port of Long Beach officials gathered on the bridge Wednesday, Sept. 16, to discuss the impact it will have on the local economy, the views didn’t materialize. The morning air was dense with smoke from the ongoing wildfires and coastal fog, making it hard just to see the harbor below what will soon be California’s tallest cable bridge — and the second tallest in the entire nation.

But the impact the cable-stayed bridge, designed to last 100 years and connecting downtown Long Beach to Terminal Island, will have on the nation’s commerce and the transportation system serving the twin ports wasn’t lost.

And it already has a nickname that appears to be catching on.

“It’s a great, iconic bridge,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, “the ‘Bridge to Everywhere.’”

There’s not a congressional district in the country, he added, that doesn’t receive merchandise from containers that are processed through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In fact, Cordero said, 15% of the nation’s imported cargo will cross the new span.

With a 205-foot clearance, the bridge also will allow the largest of today’s container ships to pass underneath it.

When planning began for the bridge in 2006-07, Cordero said, vessels already were getting larger, bringing in as many as 8,000 twenty-equivalent units on ships; TEU is the standard measurement used for cargo.

Today, the ports see ships with as many as 19,000 TEUs.

Planning and work on the bridge has spanned the Great Recession and now the current crisis surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic, producing some unanticipated challenges.

At $1.46 billion, the 8,800 foot-long bridge cost more — and took longer — than anticipated.

But now, the long-awaited bridge opening is anticipated for the second week in October, Cordero said. A virtual, weekend-long celebration is being planned.

It will replace the much smaller Gerald Desmond span, which was built in 1968 and will be demolished piecemeal, allowing port traffic to move faster and more efficiently as trucks pick up and carry containers from both ports to inland warehouses and other points far beyond Los Angeles County.

Weston LaBar, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association, noted that 18,000 trucks serve both of the ports, which are a national gateway for trade.

It also will be a boon to downtown Long Beach, speakers at Wednesday’s event said.

“What an awesome opportunity you have here in Long Beach,” LaBar said, adding that the bridge will be symbolic of how the port can now handle cargo for many future decades to come.

It will make Long Beach, LaBar said, “the port of choice.”

“It is really a gateway to our downtown,” said Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance.

On a clear day, the bridge’s views take in the mountains to the north and east beyond downtown Los Angeles.

The bridge also will be seen from the 405 Freeway and from downtown Los Angeles when it is lit up at night, drawing distant attention to Long Beach, which is the second largest city in Los Angeles County.

It will all be good, said Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, for tourism and business.

“Every city I go to, I look for a landmark,” Goodling said. “This is a landmark.”

The bridge will feature programmable, energy-efficient LED lights, making it especially visible far and wide at night.

“Next Fourth of July,” Cordero said, “it’s going to be red, white and blue.”

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