We watched as construction workers installed one of over 300 underground pillars that will support a supersized new bridge replacing the Gerald Desmond at the Port of Long Beach.The new bridge will be taller --over 20 stories from the water surface... in order to accomodate the new mega cargo ships.
According to the head of the port's engineering department "this bridge will become a symbol for the city of Long Beach and the State of California." At this week's Port Commission hearing Doug Thiessen speaks of the grandeur of the new bridge, but there's no talk about cost over-runs or delays.
John Pope is a spokesman for the port. He says "the budget has increased from the original estimates." Originally the new cable-stay bridge - approximately 8800 feet across with 515 foot tall towers - was supposed to cost 950-million dollars. That changed dramatically when all of a sudden, from out of the ground, they struck oil ... sort of.
Thiessen says "The site has a lot of old abandoned oil wells, old abandoned utilities in there." Port officials provided us with a video in which we're told that "Since 1939 more than 6000 wells have been drilled into the Wilmington Oil Field." And, many of those abandoned wells are anywhere from 2000 to 11,000 feet deep. The narrator in the documentary says "over the past 40 years most of these wells have been abandoned as their productive cycle came to an end leaving behind a maze of capped wells or huge metal pipes called casings." As as result, Pope says, "we're moving those oil wells and relocating others."
Since abandoned oil pipes aren't usually removed by oil companies, but capped and filled with concrete the budget increased 250-million dollars to 1.2 billion which includes pipe removal and a contingency fund in case there are any other surprises. And, there's a sizeable delay because of all of this. "Right now" says Pope, "we're looking at a 12 to 18 month delay in the overall bridge project"
The new bridge was supposed to be completed by late 2016. Now, it looks like it'll be more like late 2017 or mid 2018.