Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge

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Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge
Heim 17 jan27 2014.jpg
Schuyler Heim Bridge (1948), foreground (green structure); and Henry Ford Bridge (1996), background (gray structure). Photographed in 2014, during construction of the replacement road span.
Coordinates 33°45′58″N 118°14′23″W / 33.766111°N 118.239722°W / 33.766111; -118.239722
Latitude and Longitude:

33°45′58″N 118°14′23″W / 33.766111°N 118.239722°W / 33.766111; -118.239722
Carries SR 47
CrossesCerritos Channel,
Port of Los Angeles
Locale Wilmington, California
Design Through-truss vertical-lift bridge
Total length700 ft (210 m) [1] (4,000 ft including approach viaducts) [2]:20
Width81 feet (25 m) (including 75 ft for the six traffic lanes) [2]:21
Height236 feet (72 m) tall (186 ft (57 m) above roadway) [2]:21
Longest span240 feet (73 m) [2]
Clearance below175 feet (53 m) [2]:14 fully raised
No. of lanes6
OpenedJanuary 10, 1948
ClosedOctober 12, 2015

The Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge was a vertical-lift bridge in the Port of Los Angeles. Dedicated on January 10, 1948, [3] the bridge allowed State Route 47 (the Terminal Island Freeway) to cross over the Cerritos Channel. Named after Schuyler F. Heim, who was in command of the Naval Air Station on Terminal Island in 1942, the bridge was one of the largest vertical-lift bridges on the West Coast. [2] At the time of its opening, it was the highest in the country with the deck weighing about 820 short tons (740 metric tons). [1] Its towers are 186 feet (57 m) tall above the roadway deck and about 236 feet (72 m) tall when measured from the water level at high water. The bridge was decommissioned on October 12, 2015 and will be replaced by a new, six-lane fixed-span bridge in order to meet current safety and earthquake standards. [4] [5] A replacement bridge, tentatively titled State Route 47 Schuyler Heim Bridge Replacement, was completed in September 2020. [6] [7] [8]


Early connections to Terminal Island

The San Pedro, Los Angeles and Utah Railroad was incorporated on October 8, 1887 with the goal to build a line from Rattlesnake Island (renamed Terminal Island by 1897) [9] on the east side of San Pedro Bay to Utah. [10] The same "English syndicate" which had purchased Catalina Island was said to have secured the right-of-way between Los Angeles and Rattlesnake Island in 1889, with plans to have the rail line operated by the Santa Fe. [11] However, the Los Angeles Terminal Railway, which had purchased Rattlesnake Island and the right-of-way by 1890, [12] was the first to build tracks on the island, completing the line along the western and northern sides of the island to Long Beach on November 7, 1891, as the start of a planned transcontinental route. [13] [14] The line included a 1,000-foot-long (300 m) pile bridge spanning the mouth of the Los Angeles River, [15] near the present site of the Gerald Desmond Bridge.

Since the trestle bridge effectively blocked marine traffic from passing through the east end of Cerritos Slough, [16] the War Department ordered the Salt Lake Railroad to demolish it in 1906. [17] Although a 3,300-foot-long (1,000 m) tunnel was proposed as a replacement in February 1907, [18] the Salt Lake had already applied to replace the fixed trestle span with a drawbridge in September 1906. [19] The location for the new drawbridge was set in May 1907, [20] and the first piles were driven in December 1907. [21] The bridge was completed in 1908 as a Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge. [22] [23] [24]

As port traffic increased, plans to widen Cerritos Slough to 1,000 feet (300 m) were advanced in 1914, [25] connecting the Port of Los Angeles to the Port of Long Beach. However, the widened channel would require the newly-renamed Salt Lake Railroad to move its tracks on Terminal Island and remove its 1908 bridge. After several years of negotiation, a compromise was reached. [26] [27] After widening, the waterway was renamed Cerritos Channel. As part of the compromise, in exchange for Salt Lake moving its tracks and ceding land to accommodate the widened channel, the city took on obligations to reconstruct wharves and build a replacement bridge. [28] That replacement bridge was completed in 1924 as the Badger Avenue Bridge (later renamed to Henry Ford Bridge), a double-leaf bascule bridge wide enough to accommodate two railroad tracks and two lanes for road traffic. [29] The 1908 bridge was moved to Washington State in 1934, where it is still in use as a bridge for BNSF Railway over the Cowlitz River near its mouth at Longview. [30]

Despite these early rail bridges, a road bridge was keenly desired by residents of Terminal Island, who had asked for a wagon bridge in 1894 [31] and again in 1906. [32]

1948 Schuyler Heim vertical-lift bridge

Henry Ford Bridge (1924) in foreground, Schuyler Heim Bridge (1948) in background (photographed in 1994).

1924 also saw work begin on a Naval Air Base San Pedro at Terminal Island. [33] Port traffic continued to increase and the United States Navy began to expand its presence on Terminal Island in the early 1940s, including an expanded air base. Expansion plans for the Navy called for more workers than could be accommodated over the Henry Ford Bridge, so the Navy commissioned a new road bridge in 1941. Construction on the bridge began in 1946. The Chief Engineer for the project until October 1947 was H. E. Wilson.[ citation needed] The bridge was named in honor of Commodore Schuyler Franklin Heim, who was in command of the Naval Air Station on Terminal Island in 1942.

The state of California took over operation of the bridge from the city of Los Angeles in 1964. [1] As of 1988, the bridge was being raised frequently, about 8,500 times per year. [1]

Replacement fixed-span bridge

The State Route 47 Schuyler Heim Bridge Replacement project replaced the liftspan portion of the original bridge with a fixed-span bridge. The replacement bridge has a total of six lanes for vehicular traffic, three in each direction, and span 34 mile (1.2 km). The new bridge will allow for a permanently navigable shipping channel, 180 ft (55 m) wide with a vertical clearance of 47 ft (14 m). Construction was expected to complete in early 2017, [4] [6] but was delayed to late 2020. [34]

Although the vertical clearance is being reduced from 165 feet (50 m) with the 1948 lift bridge raised to 47 feet (14 m) with the replacement fixed bridge, the lift bridge was already unable to accommodate large cargo ship traffic. Work on the replacement bridge began in 2011 and was finished in September 2020. [35] [36]


The deck of the bridge was an open grid design to decrease weight and ease lifting of the bridge to allow ship traffic to pass underneath. [37] The bridge used >400-short-ton (360-metric-ton) counterweights to lift the deck span portion to allow tall-masted vessels underneath. [38]

State Route 47 and the connecting State Route 103 are heavily used by trucks to bypass part of the crowded Interstate 710 freeway. Due to the large amount of heavy truck traffic over the bridge, the deck was subject to excessive wear. The deck was completely replaced in 1997 but was still under extreme distress. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) installed eight experimental fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) panels and attached sensors to test stress, load bearing, and temperature variations of the panels to determine their effectiveness as a permanent replacement. [39] Chicago-based engineering firm CTLGroup installed strain gages and thermocouples within the layers of the FRP. Each month, technicians perform a remote static load test of the bridge, providing direction to onsite Caltrans staff while monitoring real-time data from the firm's Chicago office.

In popular culture

  • The bridge is seen in the opening credits of the American television series Mannix. Mike Connors, playing Joe Mannix, is seen running across the bridge.
  • It was also seen on an episode of the 1970s TV series Emergency!.
  • The bridge plays a key role in the plot of the 2010 film Inception. [40]
  • A representation of the bridge is shown in the fictional city of Los Santos in the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V

• The bridge is also seen in The Bilderberg Club 'Meet the Shadow One World Government," a 2009 film by Chris M. Allport.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Woodyard, Chris (October 27, 1988). "Caltrans Begins $2-Million Project to Shore Up Aging Drawbridge in Harbor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Christina Chiang; Jeremy Hollins; Melanie Lytle (January 2011). "HAER no. CA-HEIM: Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. National Park Service. OCLC  713657277.
  3. ^ "High Lift Bridge Dedicated at Terminal Island", Los Angeles Times, January 11, 1948, p. 14.
  4. ^ a b "State Route 47 Schuyler Heim Bridge Replacement". Caltrans District 7. Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017. The new bridge will provide a permanent navigable channel that is 180 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 47 ft (14 m) to allow for the passage of ships. With the elimination of the lift, traffic will no longer be delayed due to passing ships. Replacing the lift-span bridge with a fixed-span bridge that meets current seismic standards will improve safety and benefit the local, state and national economy and internation [sic] trade.
  5. ^ Last Lift of Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge on YouTube
  6. ^ a b "Schuyler Heim Bridge Project Fact Sheet" (PDF). Caltrans District 7. August 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017. [...] expected to complete in early 2017.
  7. ^ "State Route 47 Schuyler Heim Bridge Replacement". Caltrans District 7. Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017. Construction, which began in late 2011, was anticipated to complete in 2017.
  8. ^ New Heim Bridge comes online in Los Angeles, Long Beach port complex Press-Telegram. 4 September 2020 (Retrieved 5 September 2020)
  9. ^ "South California railroads". Los Angeles Herald. 26 (207). 25 April 1897. Retrieved 14 November 2016. In 1891 the main line of the system was constructed from Los Angeles to Terminal Island (formerly Rattlesnake island), on the east side of San Pedro harbor. This line is 2112 miles in length and passes through a very rich country that is being rapidly developed. This main line passes through Long Beach.
  10. ^ "Local Railways: Incorporation of an Important Line at Los Angeles". Daily Alta. 42 (13918). 9 October 1887. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Los Angeles Items: An English Syndicate Astonishes the Southern Californians". Sacramento Daily Union. 62 (69). 9 November 1889. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  12. ^ "The New Railroad. Who is Backing the Los Angeles and Glendale". Los Angeles Herald. 34 (136). 29 August 1890. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  13. ^ "The Terminal: Yesterday's Opening of the Long Beach Branch". Los Angeles Herald. 37 (19). 8 November 1891. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  14. ^ "Hints to investors in realty". Los Angeles Herald. 37 (19). 8 November 1891. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  15. ^ "The Railroads: Some points about the construction of the terminal". Los Angeles Herald. 36 (31). 18 May 1891. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Rare treat is given admirals". Los Angeles Herald. 35 (202). 21 April 1908. Retrieved 15 November 2016. When the white man first came to this locality the Los Angeles river, augmented by the San Gabriel, was occupying its present bed and discharging through the present mouth at Long Beach, some fuor [sic] miles northeast of the outer end of the breakwater. Between that mouth and San Pedro there is an island of sand formed by the wind and waves, formerly called Rattlesnake island but now known as Terminal island. Between this island and the main land (half to one and a half miles distant) is Wilmington lagoon. This lagoon is shallow in most places, with deeper channels running in all directions, one of which forming in part Terminal island connects with the mouth of the Los Angeles river.
    The Los Angeles river maintained its entrance to the sea until about 1892, when it was closed by the Terminal Railroad company to prevent washing out of its trestle. This mouth, however is now being opened and a draw bridge constructed over it, thereby restoring the old eastern entrance to San Pedro harbor.
  17. ^ "Railroad bridge is to be removed". San Francisco Call. 101 (12). 12 December 1906. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. ^ "Prefer tunnel to drawbridge". Los Angeles Herald. 34 (132). 10 February 1907. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Would build a drawbridge". Los Angeles Herald. 33 (341). 6 September 1906. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Notes from Long Beach". Los Angeles Herald. 34 (241). 30 May 1907. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Piles being driven for new drawbridge". Los Angeles Herald. 35 (71). 12 December 1907. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridges". The Railway Age. 45: 455–456. 20 March 1908. Work is also being pushed on the long span double-track bridge for the San Pedro Los Angeles & Salt Lake now under construction across the San Gabriel river at Long Beach, Cal.
  23. ^ "Plan active fight for better harbor". Los Angeles Herald. 36 (8). 9 October 1908. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Whole harbor at San Pedro is inspected". Los Angeles Herald. 36 (201). 20 April 1909. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Army board says move back port R.R. track". Los Angeles Herald. 25 March 1914. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Reach agreement on harbor track removal". Los Angeles Herald. 11 March 1918. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  27. ^ "$1,200,000 plan in port row considered". Los Angeles Herald. 28 October 1920. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  28. ^ "Engineer City Council Approves Salt Lake Ry. Harbor Contract". Los Angeles Herald. 28 February 1921. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  29. ^ "Badger Avenue Bridge (part 3)". Port of Los Angeles History. 2004. Archived from the original on 8 September 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  30. ^ "BNSF — Cowlitz River Bridge". Bridgehunter. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  31. ^ "Terminal Island: A Dance Pavilion to Be Built". Los Angeles Herald. 42 (102). 22 July 1894. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Ask roads to co-operate". Los Angeles Herald. 33 (285). 12 July 1906. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  33. ^ "California news briefs". Livermore Journal. 6 (4). 10 October 1924. Retrieved 15 November 2016. Construction work on a naval air base on Terminal island, on the harbor at San Pedro, has started. More than 500 enlisted men, about forty officers and two divisions of navy aircraft will be stationed at the new base.
  34. ^ Harvey, Chuck (September 12, 2018). "$247M Caltrans Project Replaces Historic Bridge". Construction Equipment Guide. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  35. ^ "Terminal Island's Other Bridge Project". Port of Long Beach. October 1, 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  36. ^ New Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge Opens CaltransD7 (YouTube channel for Caltrans District #7). 1 September 2100-80 (Retrieved 5 September 2100-80)
  37. ^ Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge...In Action on YouTube
  38. ^ "Port of Los Angeles" "CA-103 Commodore Schuyler F. Heim/Henry Ford Bridge". Port of Los Angeles. 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  39. ^ "Schuyler Heim Bridge Deck Instrumentation". CTLGroup. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2006.
  40. ^ "Inception film locations". Movie Locations guide: film locations around the world, with travel and visiting details. 2010.

External links