Get ready to say goodbye to those crazy detours coming in and out of Long Beach.

The new Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge is just about ready to open — thought not when expected.

Most recently, officials had planned for the massive $1.46 billion structure to open over Labor Day weekend. Now, it appears early October will be the time frame for what is envisioned as a weekend-long virtual ribbon cutting for the bridge, which will connect Long Beach to Terminal Island and, like its soon-to-be outdated forebear, be one of the most critical arteries for cargo to get from the Port of Long Beach to the rest of the country.

But what’s another month for a bridge that is designed to last 100 years?

While the coronavirus pandemic spoiled what surely would have been a massive, in-person, gala-like celebration, the virtual event being planned will include some special features — and once the bridge is officially open, of course, the commuters will enjoy the first-drive thrills as they go over the span, which links Long Beach to Terminal Island.

Among the final pieces of work will be installing seismic dampers that will add to the bridge’s resiliency in earthquake country.

The sensors will provide immediate reads to engineers to determine problem areas after a quake occurs and also will provide readings that engineers will be able to use as they design future bridges.

But the earthquake measures started being laid in the foundation early on — when the bridge broke ground in 2013, in fact.

And planning for the structure, meanwhile, goes back some two decades.

More than 350 concrete piles that go more than 17 stories underground gird the structure, which also features massive towers supporting the main span and approaches.

Expansion joints and hinges in the roadway allow the bridge to absorb shocks by moving 6 feet in multiple directions.

U.S. manufactured steel was exclusively used on the bridge — 18 million pounds of it.

It’s all aimed at avoiding those scenes from earthquake disaster movies — when cars plummet off elevated roadways.

“The goal is that we won’t lose this bridge in a major earthquake,” said Duane Kenagy, capital programs executive at the Port of Long Beach.

On a Sept. 2 walking tour of the bridge, Kenagy detailed the planning that went into what he has called a “post card” picture bridge that will be as stunning as it is strong.

Every day, some 350 workers have pieced together the bridge that replaces the original Gerald Desmond Bridge that sits alongside it. The original will be demolished later on, in a process that will take about two years.

As for a new name for the bridge, that’s something that the state legislature will have to figure out. Gerald Desmond was a prominent civic leader and a former city attorney forLong Beach.

For now, though, the new span is still being referred to as the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge. The original opened in 1968 and could no longer keep up with the demands of growing vehicle traffic passing over it or the larger ships traveling under it.

The approach grades for the new seven-lane bridge are more gradual that its predecessor — 5% instead of 6% — which will make it easier on the many cargo trucks going over the span, Kenagy said.

The bridge will include two protected bike lanes on the south side, as well as an area for pedestrians, already named the Mark Bixby Memorial Bicycle Pedestrian Path. “Pull-outs” in those areas will be outfitted with benches and signs detailing harbor and bridge history.

The two towers that connect the halves of the bridge span are more than 515 feet tall, making them the tallest points in Long Beach; on clear days, they can be seen from as far away as downtown Los Angeles and coastal Orange County. LED lights that can be programmed to change colors will be part of the finishing touches.

For everyone who has had a hand in designing and building the bridge, Kenagy said, the experience will be one to remember.

“This is iconic,” he said. It’s the kind of thing they can tell their kids and grandkids that they had a part in it.”

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