State officials are considering various construction options for significant repair work on the Vincent Thomas Bridge, including one that would fully close the bridge for more than three years beginning in fall 2025.

A draft environmental analysis released this month shows the most significant impact of the work will be traffic and congestion in San Pedro, Wilmington, Carson and Long Beach, potentially for an extended period of time.

The report lays out four updated timing scenarios for the work:

  • A full closure that would last 16 to 41 months, depending on the type of material chosen for the deck replacement (a “cast-in-place” type would lead to the longer closure, while pre-cast methods would result in a shorter closure).
  • Leaving one lane open in each direction for each stage of two stages of work. The work would require the installation of a temporary support/bracing system, potentially reduced speeds to 25 mph due to narrowed lanes, and multiple weekend full closures and overnight full closures of the bridge. Construction would last just over two years.
  • Leaving one lane open in each direction for each of three stages of work. One lane would be open in each direction for each stage, along with multiple weekend full bridge closures and full overnight bridge closures that would be required. Construction would last approximately 32 months.
  • Nighttime-only bridge closures. This would leave the bridge fully open during daytime traffic hours. The work would require the installation of a temporary support/bracing system and full closure of the bridge from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. Construction would last roughly four years.

Caltrans, the agency overseeing the $745 million project, is seeking public input on those options, among other findings in the Draft Environmental Impact Report.

The massive project was deemed urgent after a structural analysis in 2021 showed the 1,500-foot suspension bridge, built in 1963, was in “poor condition.”

The deck of the bridge — the paved path where 53,000 vehicles travel every day — “has deteriorated due to concrete fatigue caused by heavy truck traffic over six decades of use,” according to the analysis.

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In 2009, officials had to install a concrete overlay to prevent pieces of the bridge from falling off. Two years later, the deterioration — called “spalling” — began to increase in severity.

Other work includes the replacement of medians and removing the existing 26 seismic sensors on the bridge and replacing them with an upgraded system of 44 sensors.

Unlike the former Gerald Desmond that spanned a Port of Long Beach channel, a full replacement wasn’t needed for the Vincent Thomas because it is structurally sound and it is already tall enough to accommodate larger container ships. The Long Beach bridge, now called the Long Beach International Gateway, needed to be raised 50 feet.

The Long Beach bridge, however, remained mostly open during construction while the new bridge was built.

This time, there will be significant traffic impacts, and the new analysis explores several detour options to and from Terminal Island, including Harry Bridges Boulevard/Alamitos Street, Pacific Coast Highway and State Route 47.

Detour routes being considered as part of the Vincent Thomas Bridge replacement project.

The public is invited to give feedback on how officials should proceed at the following public forums:

  • A virtual session from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1. Click here to participate.
  • In person from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at the Wilmington Recreation Center, 325 N. Neptune Ave., Wilmington.
  • In person from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Peck Park Community Center, 560 N. Western Ave., San Pedro.

Comments can also be submitted through July 15 to [email protected].

Officials hope a final decision on the construction materials and timeline will be made by this fall.

Melissa Evans is the Chief Executive Officer of the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal. Reach her at [email protected], @melissaevansLBP or 562-512-6354.