Dismantling of Long Beach bridge to shut down vessel traffic

(LONG BEACH, Calif.) — Demolition of the Gerald Desmond Bridge in the Port of Long Beach is scheduled to start in May with the dismantling and removal of the main span, which will require a weekend-long closure of the Back Channel, the waterway that runs under the bridge, to all vessel traffic.

The Back Channel will be closed to vessels from 6 a.m. Saturday, May 7, to 6 a.m. Monday, May 9, as the bridge’s 527-foot-long main span is disconnected and lowered onto a barge. The Gerald Desmond Bridge closed in early October 2020 when its replacement opened. Vehicle traffic on the replacement bridge will not be affected by the demolition of the old span.

Port of Long Beach photo

Removal of the main span is one of the first steps in demolishing the Gerald Desmond Bridge. Following the first weekend, further significant waterway impacts are not anticipated. Full demolition is expected to be concluded by the end of 2023.

Removal of the Gerald Desmond Bridge, rising 155 feet above the water, will allow large cargo vessels to more easily access the port’s Inner Harbor. The new bridge has a 205-foot clearance over the channel.

“The Gerald Desmond Bridge helped this port complex become one of the busiest in the world. It helped us reach new heights during an era of incredible, transformative growth in international trade,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “We will bid a fond farewell to the Gerald Desmond, and honor the memory of the man for whom it was named. The new bridge that replaced it is a fitting, and lasting tribute to the old span.”

“The Gerald Desmond Bridge served this port, city and region well over 50 years,” said Steven Neal, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “It was time to build a safer, taller and wider span that will allow the Port of Long Beach to remain a primary gateway for trans-Pacific trade well into the future.”

Opened in 1968, the Gerald Desmond Bridge was named after a former Long Beach city attorney who helped secure funding to build the 5,134-foot-long, through-arch bridge. It was decommissioned when its replacement opened to traffic in October 2020.

The port awarded a contract in July 2021 to Kiewit West Inc. to dismantle and remove main steel truss spans, steel plate girder approaches, abutments, columns, access ramps, foundations and other pieces of the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

Funding for the $59.9 million demolition project is included within the overall $1.57 billion budget to build the replacement bridge. Metal and other materials removed from the old bridge will be hauled to a recycling site for salvaging and reuse.

— Port of Long Beach

By Rich Miller