The Interstate 10 freeway in Los Angeles, closed since a massive fire on Nov. 11, will reopen Nov. 21, far faster than initially feared.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in an announcement on Nov. 17, credited an “all-government” approach to the problem and emergency construction crews working around the clock for the speedy repair.
The crisis began on Saturday, Nov. 11. Early that morning, a fire broke out in a 200-by-200-foot storage yard beneath the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles.
Stacks of pallets, vehicles, and trailers fed the blaze, according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Kristin Crowley, High winds then pushed the fire across the street and into another storage yard, where more materials caught fire. Eventually the fire spanned 8 acres and severely damaged the portion of I-10 serving the southern part of Los Angeles. It took 26 fire companies and more than 160 firefighters to extinguish the fire.
Ultimately, the fire damaged nearly 100 support columns supporting the freeway and approximately 400 feet of bridge structure.
In a press release on Nov. 16, Newsom said that additional repairs will continue for some months. However, Caltrans has determined all five lanes of traffic in both directions can safely reopen to passenger and commercial truck vehicles by Thanksgiving.
Before the fire, more than 300,000 vehicles a day traveled through the corridor.
Speeding the I-10 Repairs
At a Nov. 13 press conference, Newsom pledged to open the freeway as soon as possible. He said the priorities for the repair efforts would focus on safety first and speed second. He added, however, that providing a timeline for repairs was impossible at that time.
Initial estimates predicted it would take three to five weeks to reopen the Interstate.
Immediately following the fire, Newsom declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County. He also directed the California State Transportation Agency (Caltrans) to request assistance from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program.
Caltrans developed a plan to reroute traffic away and around the damaged portions of I-10. It also moved quickly to produce a repair plan to reopen the freeway as quickly and safely as possible.
The agency also began an investigation into the cause of the fire. The fire appeared to have been set intentionally, Newsom said during the press conference.