Former Vice President Joe Biden returned to the Southland Thursday, touring the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project at the Port of Long Beach ahead of an Irvine fundraiser, while also picking up endorsements from the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The Democratic presidential hopeful shook hands with construction workers at the $1.3 billion bridge-replacement project, while offering a reminder that federal money for the project was approved during the Obama-Biden administration.
Accompanying him on the tour was Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who announced his endorsement of Biden earlier in the day.
Biden is "ready to lead our country on day one, and we're just grateful for his leadership here and grateful to show him this amazing facility and this port, which is the second largest container port in the United States," Garcia told reporters.
Garcia had originally endorsed California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has since exited the race.
Biden praised Garcia and said he values his support.
"He's one of the up-and-coming mayors in the country," Biden said. "He has a significant, significant following. It means a lot to me that he endorsed me."
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Biden on Thursday also picked up the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who will serve as a national co-chair of the Biden for President campaign.
"Joe Biden is a close personal friend who has been an incredible partner in delivering progress for L.A.," Garcetti said in a statement released by the Biden campaign. "He came to L.A. and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me to make us the first big city to enact a $15 minimum wage, and he brought leaders from all over the world to our city to forge the most sweeping climate agreement prior to the Paris accords."
Garcetti praised the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, but said, "I will never forget what Joe Biden has done for my city and our nation."
Biden and Garcetti will make a joint appearance Friday morning at the headquarters of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City union in the Westlake District. Biden will also attend a fundraiser in the Los Angeles area Friday, although no details of the event were released. He will travel to Nevada later in the day.
The Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement project, which is expected to be completed this year, will replace the previous 1960s-era span at the Port of Long Beach with a 205-feet-high bridge designed to provide clearance for larger modern cargo ships. The original bridge is 155 feet above the water.
It will also include three traffic lanes in each direction -- up from the previous two -- along with emergency lanes and a bicycle/pedestrian path.
According to port officials, the bridge is also a critical route for cargo trucks, with roughly 15% of the nation's imported water-borne cargo traveling over the span.
The project is estimated to have created roughly 3,000 construction jobs.
Biden was last in the Southland to attend the Dec. 19 presidential debate at Loyola Marymount University. He also visited the area in early December, attending fundraisers in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
Biden held a fundraiser Wednesday night at a Washington, D.C., law firm.
Another Democratic presidential hopeful -- former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- will also be in Los Angeles Friday. He will visit a Watts transitional housing project for the homeless with Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, then attend a pair of local fundraisers.