Construction on the new $1.2- billion Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project in Long Beach, CA, has surpassed the halfway point, as the structure's new towers are out of the ground and rising more than 200 ft above the water.

"Virtually every component of the project - except for the main span super structure - is under construction, so there is a lot of activity out there now," says Duane Kenagy, P.E., Capital Programs senior executive lead, for the Port of Long Beach

Kenagy, who is in charge of the project for the Port, says things are getting "pretty exciting" on the jobsite because it finally looks like a bridge project. "For a long time the work we were doing was from the ground level down, and that’s not near as exciting to the public now that they can actually see columns and towers going up and bridge structures being built," he says.

Kenagy says crews are currently working on the bridge diaphragms and forming where the decks meet the towers.

The design-build project to replace the 50-yr-old Gerald Desmond Bridge began in 2013 and when complete in late 2018, it will be the first cable-stayed vehicular bridge in California. The new bridge, with a 205-ft vertical clearance and two main towers reaching 515 ft above the water, will be high enough to accommodate the newest generation of cargo ships. In addition, the new bridge will be wider and better able to accommodate existing and future traffic volumes.

The project is being led by the SFI JV, which is comprised of Oakland, CA-based Shimmick Construction Inc., Spain-based FCC Construction, and Italy-based Impregilo S.p.A. Subcontractors include: Arup - lead designer; Irving, TX-based CMC Rebar and Gerdau Rebar of Santa Fe Springs, CA for rebar; Coolidge, AZ-based Stinger for structural steel fabrication and erecting steel; and A&A Concrete.

One of the most fascinating construction features of the project is the innovative use of the moveable scaffolding systems (MSS), which project officials say are a first in California. The MSS is a process that constructs a bridge one span at a time and is comprised of four primary elements: supporting brackets, main girders, transverse trusses, and exterior concrete forms.

MSS are similar to standard cast-in-place forming, where the bridge is built span by span. But they have the "advantage of segmental construction where each span can be completed independently," said Bill Corn, project director with SFI JV, who I spoke with a few months ago. He said MSS was selected because it provides safe working access for labor equipment and material, while it does not obstruct access below the structure.

Another component of the bridge project that is new to California is construction of a Texas U-Turn for the new Port Access Undercrossing near the 710 Freeway. Mainly used in other states such as Texas, the u-turn is basically a free flowing, dedicated double left turn on the inside track of traffic that allows trucks to keep moving and not have to wait at a signal, which is crucial at a busy port like Long Beach, which welcomes about 40% of the nation's overseas containerized cargo vessels.

Kenagy says the Texas U-Turn was an alternative technical concept that SFI proposed during the proposal stage and was approved by The Port and Caltrans. He says this plan took the place of a "big, expensive horseshoe ramp that would have taken traffic and looped it over a grade separation, adding that the route also saved several acres of right-of-way that they can now be converted into terminal facilities.

The next major milestone for the project is the final approval stage for the main span superstructure design, which is the last major design approval on the project, says Kenagy. He says this should arrive by the fall, with construction soon to follow.