As our economy grows stronger, it is more important than ever to improve the way we move goods into and out of our nation's ports. That's why Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez was happy to be at the Port of Long Beach, California, earlier today to mark the groundbreaking of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement.
For more than 40 years, the Gerald Desmond Bridge has been part of the Long Beach, California community. It has been vital in supporting the daily commuting needs of tens of thousands of local residents, but it very likely has also been a vital part of your life, even if you live halfway across the country.
You see, the Gerald Desmond bridge connects the Port of Long Beach--one of America's busiest ports--with the rest of the country. And that means that more than 10 percent of the goods and materials entering the United States cross the Gerald Desmond enroute to stores, homes, factories, and farms across the nation. Because the bridge also carries products to the Port bound for international markets, the bridge indirectly supports jobs at companies nationwide who rely on sales overseas.
Unfortunately, the 44-year-old bridge can no longer keep up with the transportation demand it faces. It is already handling more than double the traffic volume it was designed for and has been severely strained in recent years as port volumes increased.
In addition to frequent traffic jams, the bridge's superstructure is so decrepit that giant nets were placed on its underside to prevent concrete chunks from falling onto roadways and waterways below. In 2009, the California Department of Transportation gave the bridge a 48 (out of 100) "sufficiency rating," putting it high on the list of roadways needing replacement.
The Federal Highway Administration has invested $675 million in this project – more than two-thirds of its total cost. That’s an investment in California and America’s economic future and a future of safer, less congested travel.
It’s also an investment that--according to some estimates--will support on average 3,000 construction jobs a year for the next five years and generate more than $2 billion in economic activity in Southern California.
At DOT, we’re committed to making sure these vital pieces of our infrastructure are ready for the challenges of the future. In the case of the Desmond Bridge, that means a new bridge that will ease congestion, improve safety and keep freight moving from this very busy and important port.