News | PSR METRANS tours Gerald Desmond Bridge Project

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PSR METRANS tours Gerald Desmond Bridge Project

Sunday, February 25, 2018

by By Natalie Hernandez, USC Price School MPL, 2018

On February 15th, 2018 students from USC, CSULB, and UCI, along with invited faculty, staff, and public and private sector guests toured the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project in the city of Long Beach. I was among the students present.  I learned of this trip through the METRANS student newsletter (METRANS on the Move) and was excited to attend. I remembered visiting the Port of Long Beach (POLB) almost a decade ago when the Environmental Impact Report was just adopted for the project, and was thrilled at the opportunity to see its progress first hand and go behind the lines to see the construction in action. Since then, and over the years, I have gone on many POLB community harbor tours where the Gerald Desmond Bridge project was always discussed. But who knew it would take eight years to get to where it is now? Being both a USC planning student and an interested Long Beach resident, I am happy that this tour allowed me to see this bridge continue its journey to completion (expected at the end of 2018).

I found several things most interesting from the perspective of a community and social planning student at the USC Price School. First, this is currently the largest public works project in California, costing over $1.2 billion and being the first cable-stayed design bridge in the state with three lanes going in each direction. Second, building the new bridge requires many partners: Caltrans, the design-build team, LA Metro, POLB, and US Department of Transportation, with Caltrans ultimately taking on the long-term maintenance. And finally, a main reason the bridge is being built is to accommodate larger ships coming into the POLB. The new bridge has a 50-foot greater clearance than the current bridge, increasing the clearance from 155 feet to 205 feet.


Photo by David Allen Flax

Notable is the fact that, to go beyond its functionality as a bridge and integrate it to community activities, bike lanes and pedestrian scenic overlooks will be constructed as a part of the bridge. Even a connection to the LA River trail is being considered, giving community members opportunities to interact with its structure as well as the surrounding environment. I find connecting the Gerald Desmond Bridge to the community to be incredibly important because many times it is a concern of nearby residents that port expansions will only create pollution with increased traffic, diesel emissions, noise, and water quality impacts. Our guides shared that the POLB recognizes its commitment to address these concerns and hosts a grants program for environmental mitigation that has distributed $17.4 million since 2009 as well as funding numerous social and environmental projects such as an asthma treatment center, the distribution of air filters, and tree planting projects.

I appreciated the opportunity to tour the project, and am grateful to METRANS PSR for making this possible.  My hope with the construction of the Gerald Desmond Bridge and expansion of port operations is that POLB will continue to be a “green port,” working to achieve zero emissions and connections with the community. 

From left to right, USC MPL 2018, Natalie Hernandez, Marcos Lopez and Eric Tunell.

About the Author: Natalie Hernandez

Natalie Hernandez is a second-year Master of Planning student at the USC Price School. She also works as a research assistant at USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) where she was a contributing author to the Measures Matter report on the equitable implementation of LA County Measure M (sales tax for transportation) and Measure A (parcel tax for parks and open space). In her spare time, Natalie enjoys running, Latin dancing, and hanging with her family and dog in Long Beach. LinkedIn: Twitter: @Natalie_MHz