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Gerald Desmond Bridge Means Quality of Life with Eased Traffic, Boosted Commerce, and Greener Ships in Port of Long Beach

Contractor to be honored at international CONEXPO-CON/AGG equipment exposition for making a significant difference to quality of life

How does an 8,800-foot bridge in Long Beach, Calif., improve the quality of life for a person in Iowa or South Dakota or Texas? By carrying 15 percent of all the cargo coming into our nation’s ports.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge is being replaced, and the new structure will improve the flow of goods from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to the rest of the nation. The new bridge’s vertical clearance will be 205 feet — 45 feet higher than the existing bridge, making it possible for the world’s largest ships to enter the Port of Long Beach’s inner harbor. Accommodating these new ships will keep the ports thriving and provide environmental benefits by improved air quality with engines that run cleaner.

New Bridge Provides Vital Commercial Link

“This bridge is vital to freight movement and the nation’s economy,” said former Highway Administrator Victor Mendez at the groundbreaking. An estimated 14,000 trucks per day cross over the bridge, carrying goods out of the docks and into stores, factories and destinations across the U.S. The trucks also carry in exports bound for international markets. The 51,000 passenger vehicles per day far surpass the traffic load intended when the bridge was completed in 1968.

Traffic no longer flows well on the 45-year-old bridge. It is not wide enough to enable efficient and safe clearing of incidents and accidents. A steep grade and other design deficiencies contribute to high accident rates. Truck accidents bring traffic to a standstill. They often block both travel lanes, limiting emergency access and trapping vehicles on the bridge until the disabled truck is removed.

Quality of Life Benefits for Commuters, Saving Time and Money

Congestion on the bridge has a cost. According to the Texas Transportation Institute 2012 Urban Mobility Report, the Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana region had the second highest congestion cost in the nation at $1,300 per auto annually. Considering the millions of cars in Southern California, that cost is significant. Costs for increased fuel consumption, higher emissions, and lost time in transport are ultimately passed on to consumers, wherever they are in the U.S.

The existing Gerald Desmond Bridge is rapidly deteriorating – even crumbling. Nets hang below the bridge to prevent falling pieces of concrete from hitting the ground and waterways below. In addition, because the bridge’s vertical clearance is among the lowest at any port in the nation, it is unable to accommodate newer, larger ships that plug into clean, electric shore power.

For these reasons and more, Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach decided to replace the bridge. With a design and construction proposal of $649.5 million, the Shimmick Construction Company Inc., FCC Construction S.A. and Impregilo S.p.A. (SFI) joint venture team, won the contract by submitting the lowest bid and garnering the highest technical score. Site preparation, demolition of the existing bridge, and other considerations bring the total project cost to $1 billion.

Construction began in February 2013 as crews began the first stage of a three-year project that is expected to add more than 3,000 jobs. The existing bridge will remain in place until the new bridge is complete.

Ensures Port Jobs and Secures Southern California as a Major Trade Center

The results of the new Gerald Desmond Bridge will be significant for the economy. The new bridge will help retain southern California’s position as a major trade center. Port operations support nearly 30,000 jobs. That’s about one out of every eight jobs in Long Beach and one out of every 24 jobs in L.A. County. The construction-related spending is expected to generate regional economic activity of about $2 billion.

“The trucking impact on the Gerald Desmond Bridge is extensive,” said William Corn, project representative for SFI JV. “Having a bridge with additional capacity and a more gradual grade will greatly enhance the traffic flow.” Four lanes will become six. The maximum grade will be reduced 5 percent. By 2025 the new bridge is expected to result in 5,115 fewer vehicle hours as well as significantly improved air quality. The new bridge will improve safety by providing an additional travel lane, and standard inside/outside shoulders in each direction.

Other features of the new bridge that will enhance quality of life for nearby residents are a bike path, pedestrian path and scenic observation decks 215 feet above the water. Its 100-year design life, much longer than what is typical, adds value for taxpayers.

Bridge to the Future: Good Economics

According to Corn, the design-build method used on the project resulted in substantial savings of both time and money. “We modified the span length to optimize our construction method and we also optimized the configuration of the ramps to reduce the bridge deck structure,” said Corn. “The port and taxpayers were passed along those savings.”

With towers reaching 515 feet, 200-foot-high approaches and foundations that will extend 150-200 feet below, Corn says the project presents some unique challenges. “For the high work, it is all about doing the work safely,” said Corn. “The deep work on the foundations is technically difficult.” Tower cranes, temporary elevators, and a self-erecting jump form will be used to complete the bridge construction. Strict emissions standards at the Port require the contractor to use mostly new equipment.

“This is really the bridge to the future. This is absolutely a vital link of commerce,” said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster at the ground breaking for the replacement bridge.

When completed, the impressive cable-stayed Gerald Desmond Bridge will stand as an icon for all of Southern California, enhancing the quality of life for nearby residents and commuters as well as consumers near and far.

For contributions to our quality of life, Shimmick Construction Company Inc. will be recognized at North America’s largest construction equipment trade show, CONEXPO-CON/AGG. A company representative and one guest will receive a free trip to the show in Las Vegas in March 2014.

At CONEXPO-CON/AGG, they will see all the innovative new equipment that will continue to support their work for better living brought to you by the men and women of the construction industries.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG is the international gathering place in North America for the construction industries. The event features exhibits of the latest technologies and innovations in equipment, products and services plus extensive industry-targeted education. The next CONEXPO-CON/AGG is March 4-8, 2014 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, USA. More than 100,000 attendees are expected. For more information about CONEXPO-CON/AGG, visit www.conexpoconagg.com.

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