Demolition of the 54-year-old Gerald Desmond Bridge is slated to begin the first week of May, Port of Long Beach officials announced Friday.

The removal will kick off with a weekend-long closure of the back channel in the port complex from 6 a.m. Saturday, May 7, to 6 a.m. Monday, May 9. In that time, crews will disconnect the main span from its supports and lower it onto a barge below.

This is the only expected waterway closure resulting from the bridge demolition, according to the port.

The section will then be transported to another location to be disassembled and properly disposed of, according to port spokesman Lee Peterson. Materials will be hauled to a recycling site for salvaging and reuse, according to the announcement.

“The Gerald Desmond Bridge helped this port complex become one of the busiest in the world,” port Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “It helped us reach new heights during an era of incredible, transformative growth in international trade.”

In July 2021, the Board of Harbor Commissioners awarded the demolition contract to Vancouver-based Kiewit West Inc. The $59.9 million project budget includes the $27.5 Kiewit contract, a $7.2 million contract with WSP USA for construction management, $6 million for contract support, an $8.6 million contingency fund, $10 million in design costs that has already been spent and $600,000 in bid and award costs.

Funding for the demolition was included in the $1.57 billion budget for the new Long Beach International Gateway Bridge.

The port will retain a small portion of demolition materials such as steel but the rest becomes property of Kiewit and subsequent revenue generated from recycling materials stays with the company, Peterson said.

The old bridge first opened in 1968 and crosses the port’s back channel 155 feet above the water’s surface. It’s removal will allow for larger vessels to pass under the International Gateway bridge, which has a 205-foot clearance.

“The Gerald Desmond Bridge served this port, city and region well over 50 years,” Harbor Commission President Steven Neal said in a statement. “It was time to build a safer, taller and wider span that will allow the Port of Long Beach to remain a primary gateway for trans-Pacific trade well into the future.”

The Gerald Desmond, named after a former Long Beach city attorney who helped secure funding for the 5,134-foot-long bridge, was decommissioned in October 2020 when the new bridge opened. From planning to completion, the new bridge project was nearly two decades in the making, including seven years of construction.

The demolition of the Gerald Desmond is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

“The new bridge that replaced it is a fitting, and lasting tribute to the old span,” Cordero said. “We will bid a fond farewell to the Gerald Desmond, and honor the memory of the man for whom it was named.”

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.