The Gerald Desmond Bridge is an arch bridge that carries 4 lanes of Interstate 710 across the Cerritos Channel between Terminal Island and Long Beach, California. The bridge is named after Gerald Desmond, a prominent civic leader and a former city attorney for the City of Long Beach.
The bridge was designed by Moffatt & Nichol Engineers and was constructed by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Ground breaking for the construction of the bridge occurred on October 19, 1965, and was completed in 1968. It has a 410-foot (120 m) long suspended main span, 155-foot (47 m) vertical clearance over the Cerritos Channel, and connects Terminal Island on its east side to downtown Long Beach.
This bridge has developed various maintenance problems and the Port of Long Beach is planning to replace the bridge with a new cable-stayed bridge with 200 feet (61 m) of vertical clearance. The new bridge will allow access to the port for even the tallest container ships and will be the first long-span cable-stayed bridge in California. The project is estimated to cost $950 million and is scheduled for completion by 2014.
The replacement bridge EIR was approved and certified by the Long Beach City Council on September 28th, 2010. The EIR process did not properly address consideration for Class 1 bicycle and pedestrian facilities. However, the Council strongly suggested that the Port include such facilities providing a connection to Terminal Island, and there is a consensus among City of Long Beach staff and Council Members that adding the separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities is appropriate. Announced the week of November 1, 2010, the final 200 million of funding needed to close the funding gap has been approved.
But there is still no mandate that the Port of Long Beach include separated facilities. The Port is providing approximately $114 million of the funding (12% of the project cost). But it is you and me, California and Federal tax paying citizens, providing more than $800 million of the funding to build the bridge (the other 88%). Both the Federal Government and the State of California have clear policies stating their responsibility to provide multi-modal transport options on all new public infrastructure projects (meaning bikes and pedestrian access).
The California Coastal Commission is the final approving government body that can mandate the Port include these facilities. This bridge is designed for a 100 year life. It needs a separated bicycle and pedestrian facility. Bolting on a bike/ped facility at a later date would be more expensive and less integrated.
The Coastal Commission’s mission and charter call for them to create and preserve coastal access. We hope they provide the Port of Long Beach a clear mandate to do the right thing. The Port can engineer a bike/ped lane into the bridge. They are starting from scratch with a clean slate and more than enough funding to accommodate what should already be mandated. There are many examples of Cities that have successfully installed bikeways on bridges.