Gerald Desmond Bridge Rendering
Construction of a replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge, the span that connects downtown Long Beach to Terminal Island, home to many of the container terminals in the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles, may take an additional 12 to 18 months to complete.
At a meeting of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on June 23
, Al Moro, acting executive director, said the longer construction period may also raise the cost of the project, which the port had previously estimated at $1.2 billion.
An estimated 15 percent of the nation’s waterborne cargo passes over the bridge. The bridge separates the port's middle and inner harbor, and the new bridge will have 205 feet of clearance for larger ships expected to call at the port.
Moro noted that unlike most projects at the port, which are contracted in a three-stage, design-bid-build process, the bridge was done on a design-build basis, where project design and construction work were combined into one contract. The port and the California Department of Transportation developed an “indicative design” that described the project in general terms — for example, how many lanes wide it would be, what kind of clearance there would be beneath the bridge, plus some very specific performance criteria including seismic requirements; the bridge is being built for a 100-year life span and must be stable in the event of major earthquakes.
SFI, the main contractor for the project, is a joint venture of Shimmick Construction Company Inc., FCC Construction S.A. and Impregilo S.p.A. The group was selected in 2012 under both a “best value” and lowest cost basis and awarded a contract of $649.5 million. While the contract is administered by the port, Moro said Caltrans has ultimate responsibility for approving the designs and releasing drawings for construction. The bridge will be turned over to Caltrans upon completion.
He said there are a number of factors that make the project complex, including its cable-stayed design, the fact that it is being built in an active seismic area, and “complex soils” that include old oil fields and layers of liquefiable soil.
Moro said there has been a lot of clearing of right-of-way for the project, relocating of utilities and relocating and abandoning of oil wells, and removing or relocating buildings. Four rigs are drilling and pouring deep pie foundations that are 100-110 feet deep. Eventually there will be 300 of the piles. He said review and approval of design of foundations and structures is taking longer than anticipated, and that additional calculations and redesign is needed to satisfy the port, and, primarily, Caltrans.
“This is a complex design. This is a 100-year structure that needs to be strong and stable and withstand major earthquakes in this area for many years to come,” said Moro. “We need to be very thorough, and they need to get it right. We have one chance at this.”
He said the port and Caltrans have increased resources for the project, and emphasized the importance of expediting reviews, and are meeting with the designers earlier to try and mitigate the delays. These delays would now see the westbound lanes not opening until between late 2016 and early 2017, and the entire bridge being completed between late 2017 and the middle of 2018.
Moro said the contractor, the port and Caltrans are looking at ways to mitigate delays.
Additional costs could come from delays in design, review and materials, if additional concrete and steel is needed, he explained. Cost estimates are being developed, and the parties will evaluate whether the contractor is entitled to additional compensation.