A man rides by the old Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach, Wednesday, July 29, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The long-planned demolition of the Gerald Desmond Bridge is finally slated to begin next month.

The Port of Long Beach announced Wednesday that the deconstruction of the bridge, which has been closed to traffic since October 2020, will begin at 6 a.m. July 9.

This first step will involve the removal of a 410-foot span of the bridge suspended 155 feet over the Back Channel at the port.

Vehicle traffic on the International Gateway Bridge, which replaced the Gerald Desmond Bridge, will not be affected by the demolition, but the waters the bridge hangs over will be closed to all traffic from the beginning of the operation until 6 a.m. July 11.

The removed section of the bridge will be deconstructed and lowered onto a barge for removal, but materials from the old bridge will be “recycled whenever possible,” according to a release announcing the demolition.

Port officials expect the entire demolition of the bridge to wrap up by the end of 2023.

The expected cost of $59.9 million to remove the old bridge was included in the budget for the design and construction of the International Gateway Bridge.

Opened in 1968, the Gerald Desmond Bridge was named after a former Long Beach City Council member and attorney who was key in securing the funding needed to build the bridge. Desmond’s contribution will still be recognized in the form of an outlook on the new bridge, which will be named after him.

The old bridge’s demolition is necessary to allow space for modern ships, which are larger than their predecessors, to access the port complex. The International Gateway Bridge has a 205 foot clearance over the water, 50 feet higher than the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

“We became the nation’s premier port for international trade during a period of extraordinary growth, thanks to infrastructure like the Gerald Desmond Bridge,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “The new bridge shines as a regional landmark that serves as a fitting and lasting tribute to the old span.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.