• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

$1 billion Desmond bridge project unveiled

November 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Work will soon begin to replace the crumbling Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach. It has been carrying traffic to and from Long Beach's Terminal Island for 42 years. Now a nearly $1 billion reconstruction plan will make travel easier and safer.When it was built in 1968 the Gerald Desmond bridge was a striking symbol of the fast growing trade business in the Port of Long Beach. Now, more than 40 years later, trade continues to soar in the port, but the bridge can't keep up.

"This bridge does need replacing. It's a maintenance headache," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.

Officials unveiled a rendering of plans for reconstruction of a wider and higher bridge, a $950 million dollar project that would see completion over five years. It will be paid for through local, state and federal funding. With 15 percent of the nation's container goods travelling on this bridge, officials say it will be money well spent.

"About $300 billion in trade per year is handled by these ports. This bridge is essential for that trade," said Mayor Foster.

"These are your Christmas trees, these are your iPods, these are your T-shirts - basically everything that's coming into this country is coming through the port and over this bridge" said Richard Steinke, the Port of Long Beach Executive Director.

It's not just goods, but people that will need a safer thoroughfare. Almost 75 percent of the cars that travel the bridge are commuters.

While the bridge remains safe for commuters in its present condition, it is quickly deteriorating. The Port of Long Beach recently installed netting underneath the bridge to catch falling chunks of concrete before they hit the ground and water below.

Port officials hope the reconstruction will position the Port of Long Beach to maintain its position as a major hub of world trade.