IN PICTURES: Gerald Desmond Bridge demolition work will force detours until Saturday

Demolition of the old Gerald Desmond Bridge and construction of its replacement continued this week as crews work to tear down a connector to the northbound 710 Freeway from Terminal Island to make room for a new on-ramp.

Road closures began the morning of July 4 and will last through mid-Saturday, which will force motorists to take a number of detours to reach Downtown Long Beach and the Queen Mary. The biggest impact is to the southbound 710 where it becomes Harbor Scenic Drive.

Port of Long Beach spokesman Lee Peterson said the closures will end by early Saturday for train traffic and by noon for motorists, adding that the demolition is not expected to impede traffic to this Saturday’s “Summertime in the LBC” concert at the Queen Mary, where Snoop Dogg is expected to headline.

While the holiday closure likely impeded tourists and those hoping to get to festivities downtown, the fact that the port was closed Wednesday for July 4th, as well as union members being off for Bloody Thursday — a day marking the founding of the union — made this week a good time to get the work done, officials said.

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Over the next few days, crews will work to bring down the portion of the structure that straddles Pico Avenue and could begin work to take down other portions of the connector over the next few months. However, future demolition work will cause fewer road closures as remaining portions of the connector exist over current construction sites or are in less high-profile portions of the port complex.

The crew has already moved the wood framing out of the concrete connectors and is now going through the process of breaking down and separating the concrete from the rebar, both of which will be recycled.

The new Gerald Desmond is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, and Peterson said the bulk of the work on the bridge to close out this year will be focused on connecting the center section of the bridge, with crews hanging the sections piece by piece over the next six months.

For a project of this scale, closures are inevitable, Peterson said.

“This builder is building right in the middle of the two busiest ports in the country and having to keep all these roadways, railways, waterways open at the same time,” Peterson said. “It’s written into their contract, ‘How are you going to keep these open, what’s the maintenance of traffic going to look like?’”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.