Heim and Heim Again
The Schuyler Heim Bridge replacement project will create a new classic.
The Schuyler Heim Bridge, completed by the U.S. Navy in 1948 as one of three bridges that connect Terminal Island to the mainland, was named for Commodore Schuyler F. Heim, commanding officer of the Terminal Island Naval Base throughout World War II. The Navy then turned it over to the City of Long Beach, which operated the bridge until 1974.
Historic records indicate that, by 1951, the lift-span bridge showed significant settlement caused by oil extraction in Long Beach Harbor. During the 1950s, the City of Long Beach pumped groundwater into depleted oil fields beneath the harbor, which mitigated the bridge’s rate of settlement. However, the harbor continued to sink, requiring bridge repairs.
By the end of the decade, the shifting terrain beneath the bridge foundations had caused cracks in the reinforced concrete pillars beneath the bridge, necessating additional repairs. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, bridge repairs continued for routine maintenance, as well as for damage caused by trucks and marine vessels.
Following the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987, in which a tower girder was twisted, a $2 million refurbishment project was undertaken. After the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the bridge was determined to be in need of seismic retrofit improvements and a project was planned. In the design phase, it was discovered that replacing the bridge would be more cost-effective and practical than retrofitting it and that project was scrapped.
The eventual $210 million replacement project started in October, 2011 and is estimated for completion in early 2017. In addition to creating a new fixed-span bridge that meets current seismic standards, the project also adds 42 feet in width in the form of standard shoulders and a southbound auxiliary lane. The design will accommodate three 12 foot wide lanes, and 10 foot wide shoulders in the northbound direction. There will be three 12 foot wide lanes, a 12 foot wide auxiliary lane, and 10 foot wide shoulders in the southbound direction. The minimum vertical clearance of the bridge will be 46.9 feet over the mean high water level, allowing for accommodation of the new 45 foot fireboats.
The project is being constructed in stages as follows:
• Stage One, involving construction of the northbound portion over Cerritos Channel, has been partially completed.
• Stage Two, where the project is now, has demolished the northbound half of the existing bridge, shifting traffic to the southbound section.
• Stage Three will shift traffic to the newly-completed northbound bridge, demolish the remainder of the existing bridge and construct the southbound portion.
• Stages Four, Five and Six will consist of finishing work.
“This is an exciting project to work on because of the complexities of constructing a project in water but also because of the Heim’s historic past and current importance to goods movement throughout the state and the country,” said Resident Engineer Hammer Sui. “We want to ensure that it remains a vital piece of infrastructure well into the future.”