The I-10 Freeway in Los Angeles has reopened after being closed since November 11 when it was damaged by an 8-acre fire underneath it at a scrap yard.
The eight-day closure was significantly less time than the three to five weeks originally thought would be needed to repair the highway.
Around-the-clock work enabled traffic to return to the section of freeway, one of the busiest in the U.S., before Monday morning rush hour November 20.
A person of interest is also being sought for the start of the blaze, which has been deemed arson by CalFire. CalFire released a grainy surveillance photo of the suspect over the weekend and is asking for assistance in locating him.
City firefighters responded at 12:22 a.m. November 11 to the fire south of downtown underneath the Interstate 10 Freeway in the 1700 block of East 14th Street. Pallets, trailers and vehicles were on fire, and the fire soon spread to another storage yard across the street, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The fire eventually spread over nearly eight acres. (See video at the end of this story of the blaze.)
Most of the fire was extinguished within three hours, and Caltrans engineers began a damage assessment once the area was cleared of any hazards.
The engineers determined the bridge would not have to be demolished and rebuilt, which could have taken up to six months. Instead, repairs were made by crews working 24/7.
On November 19, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the section, traveled by 300,000 vehicles a day, would reopen well ahead of schedule.
The repairs, which include wooden shoring next to damaged concrete pillars beneath the elevated roadway, are temporary. Permanent fixes will occur over the next several months or so.
On November 15, the Biden-Harris Administration approved California’s request for $3 million in “quick release” emergency funds to offset initial costs of the repair.
According to Caltrans, the westbound I-10 Alameda Street off-ramp remains temporarily closed while repair work continues. The ramp will serve as a staging area for repair operations, which will continue below the elevated roadway, the agency says.
Caltrans attributed the quicker reopening to “around-the-clock efforts of crews and engineers on and off-site, better-than-expected structural testing results, rapid debris removal, and close coordination between state, local and federal government officials.”
Security Paving Co. of Westlake Village and Griffith Co. of Brea are the contractors on the repairs.
Caltrans said the shoring was accomplished by more than 250 people working 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Crews also repaired damaged electrical systems, lane striping and signs, and moved K-rail temporary concrete barriers on I-10.
The agency reports that 264,000 cubic feet of hazardous material and debris and more than two dozen burned vehicles were removed from the site.
Caltrans also conducted a wide-ranging “swarm” maintenance operation while the freeway was closed. That included sweeping shoulders, repairing bridge railings and broken concrete, painting over graffiti, cleaning drains and culverts, and removing litter and excess vegetation.
“What began as months has turned into days – before Angelenos hit the road on Monday, we’re opening the 10 back up,” Newsom announced Sunday, November 19. “Thanks to the tireless work of Caltrans and union construction crews and with help from our partners – from the Mayor’s office to the White House – the 10’s expedited repair is proof and a point of pride that here in California, we deliver.”
See below for an LAFD video of the fire: