After six years of construction, the $1.5-billion replacement for the aging Gerald Desmond Bridge is ready to make its debut in Long Beach.

Last week, the Port of Long Beach announced that the new cable-stayed bridge is scheduled to open to the public on October 5.  Spanning nearly two miles between Terminal Island and Long Beach, the structure will accommodate six lanes of automobile traffic - an expansion on the existing 1960s bridge - as well as a bicycle and pedestrian path.

“The new bridge is an engineering marvel and a point of pride for the tens of thousands of workers whose livelihoods are connected to the Port of Long Beach,” said Long Beach Port Executive Director Mario Cordero in a news release. “We are both grateful for the years of hard work by the bridge contractor and workers and for the collaboration with Caltrans to deliver our new bridge. We’re very excited by what this bridge to everywhere means to our Port and the national economy.”

Built with funding from a combination of state, local, and federal sources, the new structure towers over its predecessor - a steel arch bridge named in honor of former Long Beach City Attorney Gerald Desmond.  With a pair of 515-foot-tall concrete towers anchoring 80 steel cables, the new Gerald Desmond ranks among the tallest bridges of its type in the United States.  The increased height permits 205 feet of clearance above the water, allowing the Port of Long Beach to accommodate larger cargo ships.

“The Port of Long Beach is proud to count the new bridge among our many capital programs that continue to enhance operational efficiency and keep the Port of Long Beach internationally competitive,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna in a prepared statement. “The bridge is a critical link in the nation’s trade system and improves an important transportation corridor for California.”

The existing bridge, which will be demolished, currently transports 15 percent of container shipments into the United States, according to the Port of Long Beach.

In preparation for the debut of the new Gerald Desmond Bridge, road closures are planned over the October 2 - October 4 weekend on both ends, affecting traffic toward Downtown Long Beach and the 710 Freeway.

More information is available at the project's official website.