After carrying traffic to and from Long Beach's Terminal Island for 45 years, the Gerald Desmond Bridge is nearing the end of its lifespan.
Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach celebrated the kickoff of the bridge's $1 billion replacement in a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
Port of Long Beach Executive Director Christopher Lytle said the bridge will have as much architectural value as the Queen Mary upon completion.
"This will be an iconic structure which will give Long Beach a new iconic structure to go along with the Queen Mary," Lytle said during the ceremony.
The new structure will replace the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge and become the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the country and the first of its kind in California for vehicles.
The existing bridge is in pretty rough shape and has begun to deteriorate structurally.The port was forced to install netting underneath the bridge in 2010 to catch falling chunks of concrete yet around 68,000 cars travel over the bridge daily. Officials say that is well over capacity.
The project is expected to cost $1 billion and will see completion in about four years. In the long run, the renovation is part of an overall $4.5 billion project that's set to take place over the next ten years to modernize the bridge and accommodate bigger ships.
"We're looking at about four years of construction; three concentrated so about a year of design," port spokesman John Spoke said. "Next summer, we're going to see it really start to rise out of the ground."
Chief Harbor Engineer Al Moro detailed the bridge's construction plan.
"Two major towers, 500 feet in air, will support a bridge deck, 200 feet in the air, by cables," Moro said.
The new local landmark will be built right along the side of the existing bridge and will have towers reaching 500 feet above the ground. The traffic effects should be minimal since the Gerald Desmond Bridge will not be demolished until the new bridge is complete.
The base of the bridge will also be raised about 50 feet to accommodate the passing of larger ships and will widen to accommodate three lanes of traffic in each direction, adding pedestrian walkways and scenic overlooks.
The renovation at the port of Long Beach is expected to bring thousands of jobs into the area.
"We're looking at about 3,000 jobs on average during the construction period so this is really going to bring a lot of jobs to this area at a time when we need it," Pope said.
For more information on the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, visit www.newgdbridge.com