California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday that the stretch of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles, which was severely damaged by arson, can be repaired in three to five weeks. Analysis of core samples taken from the freeway confirmed that it does not need to be demolished. Newsom expressed the urgency of the repair plan and emphasized that they have determined the cause of the fire. The investigation regarding multiple suspects is ongoing.
Despite the initial uncertainty over whether the structure could be repaired or required a complete rebuild, Newsom’s statement brings hope for restoring the vital artery that serves hundreds of thousands of daily commuters. The fire, which occurred at 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, damaged around 100 columns and spread across 8 acres. While no injuries were reported, 16 homeless individuals living under the freeway were taken to shelters.
The closure of the I-10 has led to significant traffic congestion, and commuters were forced to navigate new routes or surface street detours. Laura Rubio-Cornejo, the general manager of the city Department of Transportation, acknowledged the challenges faced in reopening the stretch of freeway and reported an increase in traffic volume on surface street detours during the Monday evening commute.
The impact of the freeway closure extends beyond daily commutes, potentially affecting the transportation of goods through the twin ports of LA and Long Beach. Federal officials expressed concerns about the possible slowdown in goods movement, as these ports account for more than half of the country’s imports. President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation.
To determine the repair process, concrete and rebar samples have been collected from the superstructure, decks, and columns. Early tests indicate that the deck is stronger than initially assessed. Although the timeline for repair remains uncertain, Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt compared the situation to the fiery crash in Philadelphia that collapsed a section of Interstate 95, causing traffic disruptions which impacted local businesses.
The downtown business community also raises concerns, particularly as they are still recovering from the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns. The investigation into the fire is ongoing, with the California Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant confirming that investigators have identified the origin and cause of the fire. Storage yards under highways, which generate income for public transit, will be reevaluated in light of the fire. Newsom also mentioned ongoing litigation with Apex Development, Inc., the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire started.
As California faces increasing challenges in utilizing available land effectively, practitioners like Ertugrul Taciroglu, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at UCLA, recognize the pressure to utilize spaces under highways. However, the incident highlights the need for a careful assessment of safety and compliance measures.
Note: Direct quotes have been maintained.