The new bridge also will improve speed and efficiency for land-based cargo movement and commuters.<@SM>The new bridge is among $4.5 billion in current and planned improvements to further modernize the Port.<@SM>The $1-billion project will be a four-year effort.

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LONG BEACH, CA-As GlobeSt.com previously reported, officials recently celebrated the kickoff of construction Thursday on a $1-billion project to replace the primary bridge at the Port of Long Beach. The four-year effort will enhance a critical link in the nation’s trade system and improve an important transportation corridor for California, according to a prepared statement.

The new bridge will allow the world’s biggest cargo ships to reach the inner berths at the Port of Long Beach and simultaneously expand a strategic highway that carries 15% of all goods coming into the US, the statement says. “This bridge is vital to freight movement and the nation’s economy,” says Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “The project will also relieve congestion on the road network that directly serves one of the nation’s busiest ports.”

According to Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty, “This new bridge will be a monument to the power of partnerships. Everyone stepped up to the plate to make this a reality—the state, the port, the federal government, the local transportation agency and the construction industry.”

Long Beach mayor, Bob Foster points out that the bridge “will serve as a long-term investment in our Port and create a new West Coast icon. The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project is vital to our city, to our state and to our nation. This new bridge will bring lasting, positive economic impacts across many sectors.”

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The replacement project will allow the Gerald Desmond Bridge to remain in use while the new bridge is erected adjacent to it, according to a prepared statement. The new bridge is among $4.5 billion in current and planned improvements to further modernize the Port of Long Beach and keep it competitive. Work on the new bridge will generate, on average, 3,000 jobs a year during construction, according to a statement.

The new bridge will raise the clearance over the channel from 155 feet to 200 feet, allowing the world’s largest ships to enter the Port’s inner harbor. “A new bridge is vital to our port tenants, to our communities and to businesses around the world that depend on us to move their goods,” says Port of Long Beach executive director J. Christopher Lytle. “The new bridge will be a shining beacon for the world to see that we intend to remain a very modern port.”

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The new bridge also will improve speed and efficiency for land-based cargo movement and commuters, according to the statement. “Commuters account for three-quarters of bridge traffic, which is nearly 70,000 daily vehicle trips. The Gerald Desmond Bridge, which opened in 1968, provides a critical link from Terminal Island and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach and the 710 Freeway.”

Other features of the new bridge include a bike path, pedestrian path and scenic observation decks 200 feet above the water. Construction costs on the new bridge will be about $650 million, with site preparation, demolition of the existing bridge and other considerations bringing the total project to $1 billion.