A major artery between Long Beach and San Pedro will be closed this weekend, as major construction gets underway to replace the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach.
A 1.5-mile stretch of Ocean Boulevard between West Shoreline Drive and the Terminal Island Freeway will be closed in both directions starting Friday at 10 p.m., port officials said.
Crews will work through the weekend to demolish an on-ramp that provides access from Ocean Boulevard to one of the port’s piers.
“It’s a very significant part of the roadway,” said John Pope, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, adding that it’s a common commuter route between downtown Long Beach and the South Bay.
Motorists who regularly use Ocean Boulevard to drive between Long Beach and the cities of San Pedro, Torrance and Rancho Palos Verdes should use alternate routes, which include Anaheim Street or the 710 Freeway, Pacific Coast Highway and 110 Freeway. The road will reopen at 5 a.m. Monday.
This weekend marks the beginning of three years of planned construction for the $1-billion bridge project, the largest in Southern California.
“This is the first visible sign of construction and we are very excited to see this progress taking place,” Pope said as he stood watching a crane attack a portion of the overpass.
The current bridge has long been plagued by heavy traffic and signs of its age; port officials have had to install a nylon mesh below the bridge to catch chunks of concrete fell from the span.
The new bridge will allow for three lanes of traffic in each direction rather than the current two, and feature a sleek, cable-supported design, accessible bike and pedestrian paths, and scenic overlooks.
It will also provide an additional 50 feet of clearance for cargo ships, allowing a new generation of larger vessels to pass through the channel unobstructed.
The bridge’s two towers, which will rise 515 feet above the ground, will be the tallest structures in the Long Beach skyline.
The port and current bridge will remain open to traffic during the construction phase, while crews construct the new bridge just north of the existing structure. The new span is scheduled to open to traffic the summer of 2016, according to port officials.
Pope said he anticipates this weekend’s closure to be the most significant traffic disruption during the first year or two of the project. “We won’t have a lot of these, fortunately,” he said.