Sunday, February 14, 2010


Things change. We can all agree on that. I can remember in the early 1980s when I could jump into my car at 9 a.m. in Orange and be in West LA at the big Family History Center there when it opened at 10 a.m. Things change. There are more cars on the road and freeways aren’t big enough. The 405 freeway is now being widened.

Things change. I can remember in 1981 pecking away on my little Tandy 1000 computer purchased at Radio Shack and being perfectly happy with it. The Tandy is long gone, and there is no being perfectly happy about what you have anymore. Microsoft brings out Vista and 7 and my new computer is outmoded before it gets broken in.

In mid-1960s the city of Long Beach built a beautiful bridge, called the Gerald Desmond Bridge, named after a well-known civil leader and former city attorney. Wikipedia says this: “It is an arch bridge that carries 4 lanes of Interstate 710 Freeway across the Cerritos Channel between Terminal Island and Long Beach. The bridge was designed by Moffatt & Nichol Engineers and was constructed by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Ground breaking for the construction of the bridge occurred on October 19, 1965, and was completed in 1968. It has a 410-foot (120 m) long suspended main span, 155-foot (47 m) vertical clearance over the Cerritos Channel, and connects Terminal Island on its east side to downtown Long Beach”

Now I know time has a way of flying, but the 1960’s weren’t all that long ago. In 1965 I was already married, had kids, had voted in elections; we were living in a house we owned, had joined a church and I was busy in PTA. I remember clothes that I had, books that I read – I mean, it really just wasn’t all that long ago. But times change.

So when I read in the LA Times that Long Beach was going to tear down the Gerald Desmond bridge and build a bigger and better one, I thought what a waste of money. It seemed to me offhand that a bridge ought to last more than 50 years. I mean, in Istanbul we saw beautiful buildings that were hundreds of years old and still up and running. In England and France too. So why tear down a perfectly good bridge.

Then it occurred to me that maybe this was the way Long Beach had decided to put unemployed residents back to work – tear a bridge down and build another one. That ought to keep people busy for a while and take a few people off the unemployment rolls.

But in reading the article, I saw again that times change. Yes they do. This new bridge will be higher and wider. It will have 6 traffic lanes on it instead of five, with an additional emergency lane on each side so that if accidents occur, the cars can be moved off to the emergency lane and the traffic will still be able to flow; this will be much better than heading off oncoming traffic to the side streets in town, which causes horrendous traffic jams there. The bridge will be stronger, bigger and better suited to serve the ports of LA and LB, which the Times says is the nation’s biggest port complex.

And of course back then, who could have imagined how the size of container ships would increase. Right now, Long Beach says many of the newest container ships can’t even use that channel because the bridge is too low.

But worse, one of the major problems is that the bridge is disintegrating. It wasn’t built to carry as much traffic as it does, and this overuse has caused chunks of concrete to start falling off it. Engineers have now designed what they call “diapers” to fit around the bridge to keep the concrete from falling to the ground or the water. How embarrassing! And how unsafe!

The Times says the planned structure will cost an estimated $1.1 billion and generate an average of 4,000 jobs a year over a five-year construction period, according to the port officials. I think this will be good for California’s economy and is the kind of infrastructure work that our cities are so needful to have done. So I guess it truly is important to get this bridge down and a new one up post haste, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

It just seems to me, though, that 50 years isn’t a very long time for something that big to start falling apart.

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