News | Students Gain Behind-the-Scenes Experience of the New Gerald Desmond Bridge Project

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by By: Micha Kempe, USC 2019

On February 21, METRANS students, faculty, and staff toured the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project. The current, aging Gerald Desmond Bridge is a through arch bridge that connects Terminal Island to Long Beach. The replacement project, expected to cost around $1.5 billion, started in 2013 and is set to be completed in late 2019. The new bridge is slated to be one of the tallest cable stayed bridge in the United States. The Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles make up one of the busiest cargo networks in the world, and the Gerald Desmond Bridge carries nearly 15% of all US Cargo. In order to keep up with such high demand, the bridge needed to be replaced by a larger bridge that could meet the needs of large shipping boats.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge opened in 1968 when cargo ships were smaller. The original bridge provided just 155-foot of clearance above the Port of Long Beach back channel. The new project will have a 205-foot clearance, making it easier for larger ships to access supports in the harbor and the shipping terminal there. The new bridge also features three lanes of traffic in each direction, emergency shelters, bike paths, pedestrian walkways, scenic overlooks, state-of-the-art seismic safety features, and advanced lighting capabilities.

The bridge showcases construction technology such as the Movable Scaffolding system.  To carry out construction of the bridge segments, crews utilize twin machines known as self-launching Movable Scaffolding Systems or MSS. Every month or so the reinforcing scaffolding moves to the next segment of the bridge to be constructed, creating rapid, safe, and efficient construction of the roadway.  

When the new bridge is completed, engineers will then begin the process of taking down the old bridge. One of the most interesting aspects of this project is that the steel beams will never touch the water or cause any damage to the water channel, regardless of whether that damage could be repaired.

I was able to use my major, real estate, to appreciate that projects of this size have a risk and reward factor and can have multiple impacts in the surrounding area. Bridge construction on this scale will impact cargo shipments from across the globe and directly benefit the Los Angeles real estate market, from the warehousing and industrial industries to the housing construction industry, to name just a few sectors.  The larger ships can carry more goods and services than the medium sized the former bridge could accommodate, and therefore more goods shipped to and from the US across the ocean.

I have always been fascinated by road and bridge construction, and this was a great experience for me to indulge my curiosity about the transportation industry. The website and related mobile application are great tools to use to stay aware of what is going on with the new bridge construction and be aware of the upcoming milestones throughout the construction of the project.  I appreciate METRANS for providing this opportunity to me and all who attended.

About the Author:

Micha Kempe is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor's of Science degree in Real Estate Development with a minor in Business Administration at the University of Southern California. Mr. Kempe is a local from West Los Angeles.  Mr. Kempe founded the USC Mobility Lab. The USC Mobility Lab is a collaboration with METRANS and USC Transportation focusing on analyzing mobility data and solving problems in the current transportation system.