The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously approved the Environmental Impact Report for the project to replace the aging, 42-year-old Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach with a new, nearly $1 billion span.

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The Port of Long Beach, in partnership with Caltrans, will oversee the project to design and build a higher, wider bridge parallel to and just north of the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge. Once the new bridge is completed and open, the old structure will be taken down. The project will generate an average of 4,000 jobs per year during the expected five to six years of construction.

Parsons/HTNB has been on contract for the preliminary design work, which is about 25% complete, according to port spokesman John Pope. “We’re looking at a design/build plan to finish the rest,” he says.

The new bridge will have three traffic lanes plus emergency lanes in both directions, making it safer and better able to accommodate cars and trucks on a major Southern California commuting route. The new bridge will be higher to allow for the newest generation of green cargo ships to pass underneath.

The preliminary bridge type selection features a 2,000-ft-long cable-stayed structure with single-mast towers, shear links, composite deck and approach viaducts with 270-ft maximum spans.

The schedule now continues with the RFQ release in September, the draft RFP completed in April followed by Caltrans/FHWA review and approval, proposals due in fall 2011 and selection of winning bid in late 2011.