The 10 Freeway is expected to reopen fully in both directions by Tuesday, Nov. 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference Thursday.
The announcement comes after city and state leaders initially looked at a timeline of a reopening in 3 to 5 weeks. Newsom said they “doubled” their crews and workload, allowing for an earlier reopening date.
“What a gift for Los Angeles to have before the holiday to know that your commute will be better,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in the same press conference.
In an earlier news conference, Newsom said the portion of the freeway that was damaged in the fire would not require demolition. Repairs will be required on the columns supporting the bridge, but that work will not require demolition, which would have significantly extended the project timeline, Newsom said.
“This is good news, under the circumstance,” Newsom said, adding that most of the work will involve shoring up the structure, including about 10 severely damaged support columns.
About 100 support columns were affected by the fire under a portion of freeway that handles about 300,000 vehicles per day. Demolition would have required a closure of about six months, Newsom said.
“Angelenos, it’s good news,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “The freeway will not have to come down. So, instead of months, we are talking about weeks.”
On Tuesday, Bass urged Angelenos to stay on the freeways and not use surface streets.
“It was very very obvious that when people do not stay on the freeways, and decide to get on the surface streets, the surface streets look like an absolute parking lot,” Bass said.
This comes after Bass took a helicopter ride over Los Angeles during rush hour. Aerial images captured the moment a fire engine and ambulance struggled to navigate through traffic.
Monday marked the first weekday since the closure, offering a preview of what the next few weeks will look like.
“What we saw was both encouraging, but a reminder of the significant challenges we face,” said Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
Rubio-Cornejo said Monday’s commute did not result in gridlocked streets, but downtown streets did see a 14.7% increase in traffic volume throughout the day. Congestion was worse in the afternoon than in the morning on Monday, according to transportation officials.
Commuters who usually use the 10 Freeway and nearby roads were urged to use public transportation, if possible. LADOT officials said Tuesday that they’re temporarily eliminating fares on its DASH and Commuter Express lines to help alleviate the traffic problems.
On Monday, Newsom said the pallet yard fire that caused the closure is believed to have been intentionally set. There was no immediate information on a possible arson suspect or suspects, but Newsom said at a Monday afternoon news conference the fire was set within the fence-line of the storage business operating below the freeway, which was littered with vehicles, pallets and other materials.
Investigators had some preliminary tips, but he urged anyone with information about the start of the blaze to come forward and call a hotline at 800-468-4408.
“Arson appears to be the likely ignition for this fire,” Newsom said. “That ignition (point and cause) was determined with precision by the fire marshal, Cal Fire and their teams.”
Bass stressed there was no initial information that would link the fire to homeless people in the area, and she urged the public not to jump to that conclusion. She said there were 16 homeless people living in the immediate vicinity of the fire area, and they have all since been placed in housing.
“There is no reason to assume the origin of this fire … is because there were unhoused individuals nearby,” Bass said.
There is no timeline to reopen the freeway. Engineers were still collecting core samples of concrete and rebar from the freeway and the dozens of support columns to determine if the structures can be repaired or if the entire freeway might need to be torn down and rebuilt.
Newsom said initial testing results indicated that the structural integrity of the freeway deck was better than initially anticipated, offering some hope that freeway supports and the road itself could undergo a much shorter repair process. But he said it was still too early to make that determination, noting that there were roughly 100 support columns that were damaged and needed to be inspected, with nine or 10 of them severely damaged.
He said more test results from early samples are expected back Tuesday morning.
The freeway remains closed roughly between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, affecting connectors to the Golden State (5), Hollywood (101) and Pomona (60) freeways.
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Source: NBC Los Angeles