LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Traveling through the Port of Long Beach will be a much different experience following the opening of a new Gerald Desmond Bridge, the second-largest cable-style bridge in the country.
The bridge is over 200 feet tall, boasting three lanes in each direction that will provide a major regional highway connector. The new bridge also includes a bike and pedestrian path and has been tested to withstand earthquakes.
The first batch of early morning travelers took the first rides across the bridge early Monday morning, but it will also serve a bigger purpose and improve cargo movement.
"This is a historic day for our city,'' Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. "We know that this project is just a phenomenal architecture and infrastructure marvel ... Not only does it connect Long Beach to Los Angeles, but it connects our port to the world."
Over the last several years, the original bridge's height posed a challenge to increasingly large container ships who couldn't fit under it. But the newly unveiled bridge offers much more clearance space.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said that when the original Gerald Desmond Bridge was completed in 1968, cargo ships were just one-sixth the size they are now.
"A taller and wider bridge is needed today, and speaking of technology, this sleek new bridge that we're dedicating today will last for almost 100 years, maybe more," Lowenthal said.
The previous bridge was facilitating the transport of 15% of all container goods coming into the U.S.
The bridge replacement project began in 2013 to clear a path for the new structure, port officials said. The $1.47 billion, nearly two-mile bridge project also includes the eventual demolition of the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge.
City News Service contributed to this report.