LA harbor commission, with 3 new members, discuss VT bridge project

Newly appointed members to the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, Michael Muñoz, left, and Lee Williams, in San Pedro on Thursday, May 11, 2023.
(Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles addresses the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, including the three newly appointed members, in San Pedro on Thursday, May 11, 2023.
(Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Former U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard was among three new Los Angeles harbor commission board members seated at the board meeting in San Pedro on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Others were Realtor Lee Williams and environmental researcher Michael Muñoz .
(Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles addresses the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, including the three newly appointed members, in San Pedro on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Left to right are Commissioner Diane Middleton, Lucille Roybal-Allard, board Vice President Ed Renwick, Michael Muñoz and Lee Williams.
(Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)



The Los Angeles harbor commission expressed concerns about a state project that would shutter all or most of the Vincent Thomas Bridge for one or more years during the panel’s Thursday, May 11, meeting — the first one in which LA Mayor Karen Bass’s three new appointees participated.

Some of the commissioners also raised the question of why a replacement bridge couldn’t be built instead. With only two vehicle lanes in each direction and relatively low-slung for a modern-day bridge, the Vincent Thomas already becomes easily backed up and is not tall enough to allow many of  today’s larger ships to pass under it.

But building a new bridge, said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, would cost about “$6 billion in U.S. dollars in today’s money, much more than when it was built in the 1960s.”

On the Long Beach side of the twin ports, a new bridge opened in late 2021, succeeding the now-defunct Gerald Desmond span. That effort began in 2013 and cost $1.46 billion.

The Vincent Thomas Bridge work, which is needed to replace the 60-year-old roadbed on the mile-long suspension bridge that goes from San Pedro to Terminal Island (and, by extension, the city of Long Beach), is planned to be done in the time frame of 2025-27.

But it will create significant traffic issues during that time, especially in San Pedro and Wilmington.

The needed closures will hit longshore workers especially hard, as they rely on the bridge to get to and from work, with three shifts operating daily.

But the project will also be a challenge for truck drivers who transport cargo containers to and from the port complex.

“Obviously, this is of tremendous significance to our customers,” said Commissioner Diane Middleton, one of two holdovers from former Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration.

Commission Vice President Ed Renwick is the other.

Port staff will put together a presentation on the project, which the commission requested Thursday. The presentation will include information about how the upcoming closures will be coordinated with ongoing traffic issues and, especially, a separate port project to revamp the exit ramps from the bridge to the 110 Freeway.

The bridge project, Seroka said, “is at the top of the list” in discussions with the Port of Long Beach, Caltrans, community members and longshore officials.

“This is a Caltrans project; Caltrans is responsible for the Vincent Thomas Bridge,” he said, adding that discussions will be ongoing on how to limit the impacts on commuters and trucks that do business at the port.

Commissioner Lee Williams, one of Bass’s appointees, said the bridge is also a factor in an ongoing “connectivity” study that will look at transportation routes linking to various points of interest in the Harbor Area, where new waterfront attractions are expected to open in the next couple of years.

One of the other new commissioners, Michael Muñoz, said impacts on the quality of life in Wilmington need to be assessed. It was an issue that was raised frequently at a recent hearing on the project.

Williams, Muñoz and former U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard all attended their first board meeting on Thursday. Muñoz is the research director for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and Williams is a Realtor who has been active in real estate, banking and community volunteer work in San Pedro, where he lives.

The Los Angeles City Council confirmed their appointments on May 2.

“I’m so excited to be working with you,” Renwick told the new co-panelists at the outset of Thursday’s meeting, “and I’m thrilled Diane (Middleton) is still with us; this is going to be a great period.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who worked with Roybal-Allard when they were both in Congress, also offered comments, calling the former congressmember a good friend.

Their fathers, Ed Roybal and Kenneth Hahn, served together on the Los Angeles City Council in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hahn said.

“You’re not considered one of the ‘local’ (resident) representatives, but I’m pretty sure that your life experience and your perspective is exactly right for us,” Hahn told Roybal-Allard. “You spent your career fighting for environmental justice.”

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