I-10 freeway reopens in Los Angeles

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Dive Brief:

  • The I-10 freeway in Los Angeles reopened Sunday night in both directions, eight days after an intense fire under the elevated span damaged columns and shuttered the major traffic artery through America’s second largest city. 
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday evening that traffic was moving in both directions after an around-the-clock effort of debris removal and shoring up the fire-scarred supports went faster than anticipated. Security Paving of Westlake Village, California, and Griffith of Brea, California, are the contractors working on repairs, according to the California Department of Transportation. 
  • “What began as months has turned into days,” Newsom said Sunday at a news conference that included Vice President Kamala Harris. “Before Angelenos hit the road on Monday, we’re opening the 10 back up.”

Dive Insight:

The news of the earlier opening came after officials initially thought the 450-foot section of elevated freeway, where an intense fire started in a storage yard underneath on Nov. 11 damaged approximately 100 columns, would need to be demolished. 

But Newsom walked that possibility back Tuesday, saying that the freeway could reopen in three-to-five weeks after testing of core samples showed the damage wasn’t as extensive as it first appeared. Then on Thursday, Newsom upped the schedule again, saying the span would be available for drivers by Tuesday, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Then Sunday, the highway opened, with traffic flowing in both directions. 

The New York Times playfully captured that shifting timeline with the headline, “Surprise! Los Angeles Freeway to Reopen Next Week, Newsom Says.

The earlier opening was due to better-than-expected structural testing results, rapid debris removal and close coordination between state, local and federal government officials to expedite repairs of the freeway, the governor’s office said. U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla estimated initial repairs cost $3 million, covered by federal funds, according to news reports. 

While the roadway, which serves as a vital artery for cargo shipments from the nearby ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, is now open, repairs and construction will likely continue at the site for months, the governor’s office said. Officials also released video of a suspect in their investigation of the fire, which they say was started by arson. 

Caltrans workers seized on the traffic-free opportunity during the shutdown to carry out a “swarm” maintenance operation — sweeping, repairing bridge railings and broken concrete, painting over graffiti, cleaning drains and culverts, removing litter, weeds and overgrown vegetation and sealing broken access doors.

In June, a tanker truck that caught fire under I-95 in Philadelphia caused a similar closure. While initial estimates for the repair timeline there spanned months, the section also reopened earlier than expected, in about two weeks. 

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