A major section of a freeway in Los Angeles that was shut down because of fire damage is expected to reopen no later than Tuesday — far earlier than officials had originally estimated and before the full onslaught of holiday traffic.
The fire, which exploded in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, damaged more than 100 columns bolstering the 10 freeway, a central artery that runs across the city, forcing the closure of a nearly two-mile segment that sees about 300,000 vehicles each day.
Officials had initially suggested that it could take months to reopen the area — an eternity for a city dependent on commuting and heavily reliant on cars. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California declared a state of emergency to help expedite repairs.
Engineers tested samples of the structure, and within days had determined that the damaged section of Interstate 10 would not have to be completely rebuilt, shortening the repair timeline to a handful of weeks.
On Thursday, Mayor Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Governor Newsom once again shortened the timeline, declaring that all of the lanes would be open before Thanksgiving.
“This is what happens when we work with urgency. This is what happens when we come together,” Mayor Bass said in a statement. “I want to make sure that there are no barriers to completely finishing the repair and that when the freeway opens up, it will be completely safe.”
She added that city departments would continue to respond with urgency to the impacts of the traffic closure during the ongoing construction. The burned portion of the freeway included access to several other highways, pushing traffic onto side streets and affecting businesses in the area.
“I’m grateful for the crews working around the clock to safely repair the 10 so we can get Los Angeles’s traffic moving in days instead of weeks,” Governor Newsom said in a statement.
The fire, which erupted in a downtown industrial district, is suspected to have been intentionally started within an enclosure filled with wooden pallets, the authorities said.
The property is owned by the California Department of Transportation, but the so-called airspace under the freeway offramps had been leased to Apex Development Inc., a Southern California construction company.
The affected portion is much busier than a section of Interstate 95 in northeast Philadelphia that partially collapsed after a fire in June. As in the situation in Los Angeles, officials in Philadelphia had initially anticipated the highway closure would last for several months, but reopened it in less than two weeks.