Construction heads into final year for 2nd-tallest cable-stayed bridge in U.S.

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Updated Jan 17, 2019
The under-construction new Gerald Desmond Bridge. Credit: Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement ProjectThe under-construction new Gerald Desmond Bridge. Credit: Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project

Construction of the second-tallest cable-stayed bridge in the United States is heading into its final year, with completion scheduled at the end of 2019.

The deck for the new $1.2 billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project in Long Beach, California, stands 205 feet above the water, so the world’s largest cargo ships can travel underneath on their way in and out of the Port of Long Beach.

The new six-lane bridge will also have a bike and pedestrian path and observation decks. It will span the port’s 220-foot-wide back channel, allowing ship access to the North Harbor area. Construction began in 2014.

The cable-stayed design features two 515-foot-tall steel-reinforced concrete towers, which would make the bridge the second-tallest of any cable-stayed bridge in the United States, behind the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, at 572.5 feet.

With its deck at 205 feet, the new Desmond Bridge will have the highest deck of any cable-stayed bridge in the country.

Other engineering highlights of the bridge, according to a recent case study by Enerpac:

  • 40 steel cables will connect each tower to the bridge deck.
  • The longest cable is 573 feet long.
  • 100 columns will support the east and west approach spans.
  • 350 foundation piles as deep as 175 beneath the ground will support the bridge.
  • The bridge is 8,800 feet long.

Enerpac provided strand jacks to lift the pier tables for each of the two towers. The pier tables each weigh 1.35 million pounds and would be impractical to lift by crane, according to Enerpac.

Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. used Enerpac strand jacks that each had 48 steel strands. The strand jacks were synchronized by computer and lifted in increments of 18 inches at a time. The lift took 10 hours.

The pier tables were installed in Spring 2018, according to the case study. Bridge segments will be added symmetrically on both sides of each pier table. The final off-ramp is under construction, which will be followed by construction of the main span.

The bridge replaces the current Desmond Bridge, which was built in the 1960s and is 155 feet above the water. The current bridge will be demolished after the new bridge is completed.

The new bridge project is a joint effort of Caltrans and the Port of Long Beach. The contractor for the bridge project is SFI JV, a joint venture composed of Shimmick Construction, Spanish company FCC Construction and Italian company Impregilo S.p.A.

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For a live stream of the bridge, click here.

To watch a video on the “topping out” ceremony for the two 515-foot towers, see below: