An all-star cast of elected officials shared the news at daybreak: The fire-damaged 10 Freeway will be open for the Monday commute.
Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Alex Padilla and Mayor Karen Bass gathered on Sunday morning, Nov 18 to spread the news.
“Good morning Los Angeles, and this is a great day in our city,” Bass declared. The mayor praised Caltrans crews — and also commuters for their patience.
“This thing opens tonight and will be fully operational tomorrow,” said Newsom.
Permanent fixes, the governor said, will be made over the course of several weeks, “maybe a few months,” but that won’t impact the opening of five lanes in both directions, which he said would come in about eight hours following the news conference.
There will be some “episodic” closures, mostly at night, going forward,” he added.
“This is a significant and big day,” Newsom said.
Harris praised the union workers who often put in “as many as 14 hours a day.”
She added: “It’s extraordinary work that happened here. Tomorrow the commute is back on and happy Thanksgiving.”
In the aftermath of last weekend’s intense overnight fire set off by wooden pallets burning beneath a roughly 450-foot span of the freeway overpass at the 1700 block of E. 14th Street last Saturday, officials feared the freeway could be out of commission for up to six months — then announced that the likely timetable for reopening would be 3-5 weeks.
The blaze spread swiftly, gobbling up tons of goods stacked in the acres of land under the sprawling freeway. Authorities on Saturday released photos and a description of a man they want to question in connection with the fire that damaged a part of the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles last weekend, and they are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating him.
The man was described as being 30 to 35 years old and 6-feet tall, according to Cal Fire. He was seen on surveillance wearing a black hoodie, blue shorts, gray shoes and a green scarf with a knee brace on his right knee and a dark-colored backpack. Cal Fire officials also said his left leg may have been burned.
Officials’ original worst-case closing scenario could have came to fruition if the freeway overpass had been damaged enough to require that the structure be demolished and rebuilt.
But, according to Newsom at a press conference on Thursday night and an update from Caltrans officials on Friday, Nov. 17, ongoing chemical sampling revealed that the fire caused less structural damage to the overpass than previously thought.
“As a result, only seven rows of pillars under the elevated freeway are being shored up, only half of the 14 Caltrans had originally predicted,” Caltrans said on Friday, referring to the columns that hold up the freeway.
Crews are currently working to strengthen the pillars with 100 tons of steel beams and 12-by-12-inch heavy wooden posts — enough to stretch over a mile if placed end-to-end, Caltrans added.
Those reinforcements are being installed using more than three dozen hydraulic jacks.
The contractors carrying out the repair work, Caltrans said, can now fit twice as many workers under the 10 Freeway overpass because there are fewer pillars to repair, which means more space under the overpass for the crews — another development that is helping to speed up the work.
Much of the work was possible only because contractors worked “around the clock,” to clear detritus and hazardous materials from beneath the overpass, Newsom said during a Thursday press conference.
About 264,000 cubic feet of material — enough to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools — was removed earlier this week, as well as two dozen burned vehicles.
That work was completed two days ahead of schedule.
Newsom, after the fire broke out last weekend, also proclaimed a state of emergency in L.A. County to expedite the 10 Freeway’s repairs.
The move essentially allowed local governments to access federal funding assistance quickly and helped speed up response times to handle the urgent crisis.
Shortly after Newsom’s declaration, Caltrans secured a $3 million funding pot from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration — which essentially offset the costs of the initial repair work on the freeway to ensure it got underway quickly.
The total cost of the freeway fix is still undetermined — but Newsom’s office has said the state expects the federal government to reimburse California for “nearly likely all costs.”
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.
All work on the freeway will continue over the weekend and through early next week — with two-way traffic on all lanes of the 10 expected to open on Tuesday, Nov. 21, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Commuters are encouraged to continue avoiding surface streets in the vicinity of the freeway repairs, and stick to other freeways or public transportation.
Bass announced Friday that additional traffic officers will be deployed to the most busy areas over the weekend to help alleviate congestion.
Traffic officers will be posted at several sporting and entertainment events, including:
- Los Angeles Clippers at Crypto.com Arena on Friday
- USC vs. UCLA football game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday
- Los Angeles Kings at the Crypto.com Arena on Saturday
- Los Angeles Rams at So-Fi Stadium on Sunday
- Los Angeles Lakers at the Crypto.com Arena on Sunday
- The L.A. Auto Show at the L.A. Convention Center Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
There will also be an additional turn lane in each direction on the Alameda corridor, Bass’ office said on Friday, to address major traffic bottlenecks occurring there.
The Los Angeles Metro, meanwhile, has also been directed by its board of directors — which includes Bass — to offer additional incentives for riders in the hope of encouraging folks to steer clear of the 10 Freeway repair area.
Those directives include a further reduced fare for riders enrolled in Metro’s LIFE (Low Income Fare is Easy) program, coordination with local jurisdictions to speed up trains and buses in the closure area, and an increase the number of “Transit Ambassadors’” on the system to assist riders.
Metro will also allow free use of its bike share system during the closure, and reduce daily parking rates at Metro Park and Ride lots.
City News Service contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register