Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that the fire-damaged 10 Freeway would reopen sooner than expected — Tuesday “at the latest.”
“Five lanes in both directions,” Newsom said during a news conference Thursday evening at the site of the fire in downtown Los Angeles.
More than 100 columns along the highway were damaged, nine or 10 of them seriously, officials said. Construction crews have erected wooden structures to shore up the viaduct while repair work begins.
“By Tuesday next week, trucks and passenger vehicles will be traveling in both directions again,” Newsom said. “We’ve doubled the crews, we’ve doubled our efforts here.”
Newsom said 250 contractors were working to repair the bridge, including 30 carpenters joining the effort in recent days.
“Things continue to move favorably in our direction,” Newsom said. “The bridge structure itself appears to be in better condition than expected.”
Mayor Karen Bass thanked Los Angeles residents who opted for public transportation and answered calls to avoid congested surface streets while the 10 remained closed last week.
“It’s a good day in Los Angeles,” Bass said.
Caltrans District 7 Director Gloria Roberts thanked the governor and mayor for their leadership. She also praised Caltrans workers who spent many hours at the site.
“Proud to bleed orange,” she said, drawing laughs and smiles from the governor and mayor.
The fire, which arson investigators believe was started intentionally, broke out at a property less than 10 years old that was leased from the California Department of Transportation. No arrests have been made and the investigation continues.
Although the exact cause of the fire has not been revealed, “there was (malicious) intent,” Newsom said during a press conference Monday afternoon. The cost of the repair project also remains under evaluation.
In addition to the pallets, disinfectant accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was stored under the overpass and helped fuel the flames, according to sources close to the investigation who were not authorized to discuss details of the investigation.
The fire was reported early Saturday, shortly after midnight, in the 1700 block of East 14th Street after a pallet yard under the highway caught fire and spread to a second pallet yard, damaging the highway overpass and destroying several vehicles, including a fire truck, authorities said. said.
As part of its investigation, the Los Angeles Fire Department will inspect other underpasses in the city, according to Mayor Bass.
“The city of Los Angeles wants to make sure our house is in order,” she said. “We also have a number of leases for the highway. So we look at those to make sure what we’re doing is appropriate as well.
The Los Angeles Times reported that immigrant businesses had occupied the space under the freeway while their landlord avoided Caltrans, to which it owed thousands of dollars in unpaid rent. State officials, tenants and an attorney for the company leasing the land say Caltrans had long known about the conditions on the highway that fueled the fire.