High above the Long Beach skyline construction crews lifted a massive 3.1 million-pound piece of scaffolding on Tuesday, a testament to the everyday feats of engineering that have been unfolding along the waterfront since construction of a bridge connecting Long Beach to Terminal Island began in 2013.
Workers in hard hats looked to the sky as a crew hoisted a $10 million steel piece of equipment designed in Norway and constructed in China, then moved by a super-powered jack.
“Most cranes can lift a car or a couple of cars, but this is a magnitude larger than typical lifts,” said Zeph Varley, an engineer for the Montreal-based WSP Global Inc., who manages the project.
“Anytime you lift something like three million pounds in the air, it is a big deal,” he said.
• PHOTOS: See photos of the scaffolding being lifted into place
Longer than two football fields, the scaffolding system eliminates less reliable, traditional wooden scaffolding systems that can be more easily knocked out by wind or an earthquake.
The technology had never before been used to build a bridge in California, Varley said. But it can take months of planning to orchestrate the move — and even getting the mammoth piece of equipment in the right place will take weeks.
Already the equipment has helped build the westbound approach to the bridge, which will replace the 50-year old Gerald Desmond Bridge. The total cost of the project has reached $1.5 billion.
The cable-stayed bridge is touted by city officials and developers as a project that will redefine the Long Beach skyline, with two massive towers where cables will string out like a fan alongside the six-lane, 1.5 mile roadway.
Although construction is more than halfway complete, the bridge is one year behind schedule and $500 million over budget. The eastbound lanes and the main span still need to be finished before cars can barrel along the highway. It’s scheduled to open in late 2018.
Meanwhile the project has not been without controversy.
Beyond skyrocketing costs, there were early disagreements between Long Beach and Caltrans over seismic specifications.
More recently a series of road closures have caused traffic delays and forced some truckers to reroute.
Weston LaBar, executive director at Harbor Trucking Association, said he’s fielded several complaints from truckers who have “faced delays, reroutes and congestion as a result of bridge construction.
“The quicker it’s completed the better,” he said.