CA Interstate Under Repair After Fire
On Tuesday (Nov. 14), California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that a portion of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles is being repaired after it was damaged in what is thought to be an act of arson.
According to reports, Newsom has stated that the repairs are expected to wrap up in the next three to five weeks, after teams finished studying core samples from the wreckage.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to move that into a more immediate future and not extend this to that five-week period,” Newsom said. “This is good news, under the circumstances, and I’ve got to say, on the basis of the preliminary assessments, news that frankly a lot of folks, particularly the experts you see behind me, didn’t expect to share.”
About the Incident
The fire reportedly began around 12 a.m. on Saturday (Nov. 11) in two storage lots under an elevated section of Interstate 10, where it damaged the wood pallets, cars and other construction materials stored under the freeway.
According to a report from The Associated Press, around 100 of the freeway’s columns were damaged in the fire, which spread over eight acres under I-10.
Arson was the cause of a massive weekend fire that charred and indefinitely closed a vital section of a Los Angeles freeway, causing major traffic headaches for hundreds of thousands of commuters, California authorities said Monday.https://t.co/zfzYeZFl6k— KATU News (@KATUNews) November 14, 2023
No injuries were reported, though around 16 unhoused people living there had to be taken to shelters.
A separate report from KCRA adds that there are still unanswered questions to fixing the issue, including whether the structure can be repaired or if it needs to be demolished and rebuilt.
Additionally, it is still unknown how long it will take to reopen the stretch of freeway that normally carries 300,000 vehicles a day.
Reports state that the city of Los Angeles has been urging people to avoid the interstate, which runs east to west across the center of the city and connects with other major freeways. Instead, officials have urged residents to take buses and trains, or work from home.
On Monday (Nov. 13), traffic reportedly experienced some congestion though there was no gridlock during the morning commute hours. However, city officials stated that the evening was much busier.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass reportedly urged people to avoid conflict over the traffic.
“We need Angelenos to work together, to not turn against each other,” Bass said at a news conference. “I’ve already heard today of an instance of minor road rage. When there is traffic, Angelenos get angry. We need to stay connected to each other and turn toward each other, and not against each other.”
The result was both encouraging and “a reminder of the significant challenges we face for the foreseeable future until the 10 can be safely reopened,” Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the city Department of Transportation, stated as commutes began on Tuesday.
Rubio-Cornejo added that street detours experienced a 14.7% increase in traffic volume and traffic engineers adjusted signal patterns to deal with the new congestion.
Federal officials have stated that in addition to traffic problems, the closure is expected to affect areas outside the city, including possibly slowing down the travel of goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle over half of the goods coming into the country.
In an email to AP, Port of Los Angeles communications director Phillip Sanfield said, “So far, our terminal operators are not seeing an impact.” Lee Peterson, Port of Long Beach spokesman, reiterated the point in a separate email, stating that port officials are watching the situation.
Additionally, Governor Newsom stated that tests have shown the deck had appeared to be “much stronger than originally assessed.” Concrete and rebar samples that were taken on Monday from the superstructure, decks and columns, have reportedly helped officials determine that I-10 will not need to be demolished.
“This isn’t going to be resolved in a couple of days, and it’s not going to take a couple years,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt told AP. “But whether it’s weeks or months, we’re still too early to tell.”
Mayor Bass also stated that Security Paving Co. Inc., which has been hired for the project, was one of the companies that repaired freeways damaged by the 1994 Northridge earthquake and has experience in “around-the-clock work.”
California Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant stated that though investigators were able to identify where the fire started and its cause after sorting through the rubble for evidence, they have not yet stated what they found.
Berlant added that he had no information on a potential suspect and that investigators are talking to witnesses, including unhoused people and nearby business owners.
Additionally, reports state that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the fire.
California has reportedly been in litigation with Apex Development, Inc., the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire started. According to Governor Newsom, the lease had expired, and the business had been in arrears while illegally subleasing the space to five or six other entities.
“They’ve been out of compliance for some time, that’s why we’re going to court” early next year, Newsom said.
Apex reportedly owed $78,000 in unpaid rent from September 2022 to August 2023, according to the state’s lawsuit.
Mainak D’Attaray, an attorney for Apex Development, confirmed the lawsuit in an email to AP.
“We are currently investigating ourselves what happened at the yard under the freeway. As such, we are not prepared to give an official statement or answer questions until we have determined what actually occurred,” D’Attaray said.
Ertugrul Taciroglu, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that a part of the challenge is how expensive real estate has become.
“Every piece of land is being utilized, so I can see the pressure or the incentives for making use of these spaces under these highways,” he said.