The two largest capital improvement projects at the Port of Long Beach are now far enough along that they have significantly changed the face of the port. The towers for the Gerald Desmond Bridge’s replacement, a cable main-stayed bridge, are now the highest structures in the city. Meanwhile, the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project – in which two aging terminals are being combined into a state-of-the-art, low emissions operations facility for Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) – is now entering its final phase.


The second phase of the Middle Harbor project, which cost more than $200 million and expanded LBCT’s intermodal rail yard and container yard, was completed and turned over to LBCT in October, according to Managing Director of Engineering Services Sean Gamette. “We finished that phase under budget and on schedule,” he said.

The Port of Long Beach is celebrating the “topping out” of the two main towers for the bridge that will eventually replace the adjacent Gerald Desmond Bridge. The towers, at 515 feet, are the highest structures in the city. (Photograph provided by the Port of Long Beach)


Tom Baldwin, director of the engineering department’s program management division, said that eight stacking areas (also referred to as “stacks”) for containers were added to the container yard and that the intermodal rail yard was extended. “The stacks are about 1,400 linear feet long. They are about nine containers wide and six containers high, and they are managed by automatic stacking cranes,” he noted.


On November 27, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the first contract for the final phase of the Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project. “The construction contract itself was worth about $146 million, and it is to complete the wharf,” Gamette said. “The full length of the Middle Harbor terminal wharf will be 4,200 feet when done.” Construction on this project should begin in February, he estimated.


“Phase 3 itself primarily consists of finishing the wharf, finishing the container yard, finishing the rail yard and building an administration building for our tenant,” Gamette said. Lee Peterson, the port’s media relations manager, noted that the administration building will be built to LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design) Gold standards. Completion of the project is slated for December 2020.


This summer, the board of harbor commissioners approved a budget adjustment for the project, bringing the overall budget to $1.439 billion up from $1.314 billion, according to Baldwin.


“We are confident that we will be able to finish within that budget. We will be giving a comprehensive report to our board on that subject on December 11,” Gamette said.


Gamette pointed out that because much of the new, automated equipment already installed and slated for installation within Middle Harbor is electrified, it will advance the port’s environmental efforts. “It’s a big deal for us from the standpoint of sustainability and being green,” he said. The terminal will also aid the port in providing more efficient service, he noted. “That’s a big deal for the Port of Long Beach. We need to remain competitive.”


Baldwin added, “I have been working on this project for at least the past 10 years and . . . the team has taken a lot of pride in the work we have done to date. It has just been an honor to be a part of this program where we have implemented these new technologies that are enabling the terminal to be as efficient as possible to reduce our emissions.”


The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project has reached a milestone in the past month, with its two main towers having become the highest structures in the City of Long Beach, according to Interim Deputy Executive Director Duane Kenagy. Today, December 5, the port plans to celebrate the “topping out” of the towers at the height of 515 feet.


“This is the first major highway cable-stayed bridge in California,” Kenagy said. “We’re doing it in cooperation with Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration. And because it is a first, and because it is what in the industry we call a ‘signature bridge,’ it obviously has a lot of challenges,” he continued. “And we have been able to address all those. And we are making great progress.”


Construction crews are using two movable scaffolding systems weighing three million pounds each to build the westbound and eastbound approaches to the bridge. The westbound approach should be completed within a week or two, Kenagy said. The eastbound approach is about 40% complete.


The majority of support piles and bridge columns are complete, with the exception of those that need to be built where the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge currently stands, Kenagy said.


“We are getting ready to start constructing the first part of the main span of the bridge. Engineers call it the ‘pier table,’” Kenagy said. “It is the first segment of the main span bridge, which is a steel frame with precast, lightweight concrete panels. We started casting those panels a couple of months ago.” All the steel used for the bridge project is from the United States, he noted.


The new bridge’s grade will be less steep than the existing bridge, making it easier to traverse for truckers, Kenagy noted. “Probably one of the most important features of the bridge is that it will have safety shoulders on both sides of the travel ways. That’s something that you don’t have on the existing bridge,” he said. The bridge will feature three lanes in each direction, as well as a bike path.


The last budget adjustment for the bridge project was in 2015, bringing the total amount to $1.467 billion. “We are still within that budget,” Kenagy noted.


“Right now, the contractor’s latest forecast has substantial completion of the bridge in December of 2019,” Kenagy said. Originally, the port intended to open the westbound traffic lanes on the bridge as early as spring 2019, but the potential to open both sides at once by using an alternative detour route to accommodate construction is now under consideration, Kenagy explained. “If the alternative detour plan proves feasible, then that would allow us to pull five or six months out of the construction, which is of course good for everybody.”