1:01pm | The Long Beach City Council is expected Tuesday night to throw its support behind efforts to name the bicycle path that’s been added to construction plans for the new Gerald Desmond Bridge in honor of a local bicycling advocate who died last month in a plane crash.

Lifelong bicycling advocate Mark Bixby was the leading force behind the recent push for the Port of Long Beach and its partners in the up-and-coming bridge project to include a bike and pedestrian path on the structure. It took advocates just six months to secure the necessary support to add the path.

The 44-year-old  who once bicycled across the United States in just 30 days — had led a delegation of bicyclists “requesting assurances from the port that a bicycle and pedestrian path would be irrevocably included in the final project and budget for the new Gerald Desmond Bridge.” 

In fact, inclusion of the path was secured just two days prior to the March 16 plane crash at Long Beach Airport that claimed Bixby and four other men’s lives, according to an April 19 staff report.

“The Mark Bixby Bicycle and Pedestrian Path is a fitting tribute to Mark’s many contributions to the city of Long Beach, not the least of which is the path itself,” reads the report.

The report goes on to describe Bixby’s “tireless … efforts to educate and inspire all parties involved to understand the importance of these facilities both to the port with its focus on sustainability and the city as it endeavors to become one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation.”

The current bridge does not feature a bike and pedestrian path.

In addition to officially supporting the new bridge’s non-vehicle lane being named to memorialize Bixby, the agenda item calls for the city manager to add the path to the city’s Bicycle Master Plan as the latter is being updated.

According to City Hall, the process for naming the path would be similar to that of naming bridges and sections of freeways. The state legislature would need to adopt a concurrent resolution approving the name introduced by either the state Assembly or the state Senate. Upon the CR becoming a statute, Caltrans would then install signs identifying the path as the Mark Bixby Bicycle and Pedestrian Path.

At least two such signs would need to be funded by either the sponsors of the naming effort or Bixby’s family and friends. Caltrans estimates the current cost of two signs at about $800 to $1,200 depending on the length of the name.

City Hall expects that “financial support from a broad community of [Bixby’s] friends and colleagues” will cover the cost of the signage, according to the report. And should it not, the city “could share the cost as part of its compliance standards for bike paths using bicycle grant funding.”
The port, along with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Caltrans and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is gearing up to replace the current bridge with an entirely new structure, for which construction could start as soon as 2012.

The undertaking is expected to cost just shy of $1 billion.
The existing, antiquated structure is being replaced because it has become increasingly structurally deficient in recent years. Erected in 1968, the bridge is low according to contemporary standards, and cargo ships entering the port can only do so at low tide. Officials said the new bridge will be about 50 to 60 feet higher.

The bridge connects Long Beach to Terminal Island and sees a high volume of traffic. As part of the direct route from Long Beach to San Pedro, thousands of cars and trucks travel it daily. The antiquated through arch structure, however, was originally designed to carry only light traffic. 

The near constant traffic of today, coupled with the weight of heavy cargo trucks that can carry as many as 95,000 pounds of cargo if specially permitted, is taking its toll. Chunks of concrete from its underside fall at such a regular interval that a “diaper” made of netting had to be installed to catch the falling debris and  protect the workers below.

The request was added as a subsequent need item to tonight’s supplemental council agenda. The request for its addition was made last Friday by Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and Councilmen Robert Garcia and Patrick O’Donnell, who each signed the request, which was attached to the staff report.

Lowenthal, Garcia and Councilman Gary DeLong are sponsoring and authored the request.

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