Traffic flowed anew on the reopened lanes of the 10 Freeway in Downtown Los Angeles early on Monday, Nov. 20, after eight days of closure following a massive fire — and just in time for a holiday-week commute.
“I was so excited I went and drove it myself,” said Deputy Mayor of Communications Zach Seidl during a 6 a.m. update from Mayor Karen Bass’ office.
The eastbound lanes of the freeway, damaged Nov. 21 by a sprawling pallet fire that erupted at nearby businesses, reopened at 5:36 p.m. and the westbound lanes at 6:56 p.m., according to CHP Officer Stephan Brandt. Investigators declared the blaze an arson case and authorities on Saturday released photos and a description of a man they want to question.
“This freeway is opening because it is safe,” said Seidl, who added that Caltrans experts would continue to assess the lanes to assure there was no risk to motorists while repairs continued.
On the I-10 West, the Alameda Street off-ramp and the 8th Street exit will remain closed for now, officials said. Lawrence Street between 10th and 14 streets under the freeway also remains closed.
All I-10 eastbound on- and off-ramps are open.
No traffic issues on the freeway had been reported as of 6 a.m. Monday.
Permanent fixes to the freeway will occur over several weeks or months and will require “episodic closures,” but those are not expected to significantly impact the daily commute, officials said. They’ll largely happen on nights and weekends.
Mayor Bass, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla and Vice President Kamala Harris stood on the still-closed lanes at a Sunday morning news conference and declared that workers should be praised for completing much of the work several days ahead of schedule and hailing the cooperation of government officials at all levels. Officials then said the freeway would be open in time for the Monday commute. Crews overdelivered on that promise, opening the lanes Sunday evening.
Crews last week removed tons of debris and hazardous materials from beneath the damaged freeway. Caltrans officials said about 264,000 cubic feet of material was hauled away, enough to fill four Olympic-size swimming pools. Two dozen burned vehicles were also taken away.
As early as last week, estimates for the repair work ranged from six months to 3-5 weeks, but Newsom announced on Thursday that tests revealed the damage was deemed less severe than originally thought, and that cleanup work was ahead of schedule thanks to 24-7 efforts from crews. The lanes would open by Tuesday, he said.
Aside from the structural repair work, Caltrans workers are also taking advantage of the 10 Freeway’s complete closure to complete a series of other maintenance upgrades, Newsom’s office said on Friday. They include sweeping; bridge railing and broken concrete repairs; drain and culvert cleaning; litter and overgrown vegetation removal; painting over graffiti; and sealing broken freeway access doors.
There are more than 250 people working at the jobsite on 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officials said.
On Monday, efforts to help businesses impacted by the fire were expected to advance. Last week, Bass scheduled meetings with business owners around the freeway as officials scrambled to provide assistance.
City Councilman Kevin de Leon was expected to announce on Monday the opening of a Business Resource Center to support those impacted by the fire, fueled by wooden pallets, vehicles and other goods burning beneath a roughly 450-foot span of the freeway overpass at the 1700 block of E. 14th Street..
The councilman’s office organized a press event in collaboration with the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District and various city departments to provide details on the support available to businesses impacted by the closure of the freeway between Alameda Street and the East Los Angeles interchange.
The opening of the resource center follows an emergency motion passed by the City Council last week that directed the Economic and Workforce Development Department to reach out to local businesses affected by the fire, the freeway closure and the associated street detours. The department was also tasked with helping to identify local, state and federal resources to mitigate the impact.
City News Service contributed to this report
Source: Orange County Register