By Christine Mai-Duc, June 29, 2014
The massive $1.26 billion project to replace the ailing Gerald Desmond
Bridge in Long Beach will be delayed at least a year, port officials
Originally expected to open by the end of 2016, port
officials say the bridge that will rise over its port won’t be completed
until late 2017 or early 2018.
The delay has been attributed to
design issues, including delays in obtaining approval for designs from
Caltrans officials, who have the ultimate authority over plans.
“This is a complex
design,” said Al Moro, the Port of Long Beach's acting executive
director, at a recent meeting of the city’s Harbor Commission. “We need
to be very thorough and we need to get it right. We have one chance at
Few people dispute that the 46-year-old Gerald Desmond
Bridge, named after a onetime Long Beach councilman and city attorney,
needs to be replaced.
Many of the ships that enter the port struggle to navigate under its
low-hanging span, and traffic is often jammed on the roadway. At one
point, officials installed a nylon mesh to catch chunks of concrete
falling from the bridge’s underbelly.
The replacement bridge is
being constructed under a design-build model, which means that while
construction on the foundation began a couple months ago, only about 70%
of it has been designed.
The operation has already been plagued
with complications and cost overruns from a maze of poorly mapped
underground utility lines and oil wells on Terminal Island.
A landscape of highly variable soils, and the risk they could liquefy
in an earthquake, means designs for various sections of the bridge’s
foundation need to be tailored so they can withstand a major seismic
event, said port spokesman John Pope.
Still, some harbor commissioners expressed disappointment about the revised timeline.
concerns are that we got to this point,” Harbor Commissioner Richard
Dines said at the meeting. “I think that this is something that should
have been under control before.”
It isn’t clear yet how much the
year-long delay could cost the Port of Long Beach, which is managed by
the city of Long Beach and is responsible for shouldering all cost
project, more than 10 years in the making, is already more than $300
million over budget from its original $950 million estimated price tag,
mostly due to the oil well work done to clear a path for the new bridge.
Port officials said more accurate cost estimates will be released in July.
crews are continuing to build the bridge, working from both ends to
pour the first dozen of what will be more than 300 concrete piles
supporting the span.
Last month, Long Beach officials closed a major connector between the 710 Freeway and Terminal Island to make way for construction.
said the detour will remain in eff
ect for longer, but doesn’t
anticipate additional road closures as a result of the delays.
“It will have an impact on our customers because we’re asking them to be patient for a longer duration,” Pope said.
have a lot of confidence with this new timeline. The design is moving
along,we’ve started construction … and there’s some very high-level
coordination happening,” he added.