Local and state officials braced the public on Sunday for a potential long-term closure of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles, one day after Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to help facilitate cleanup and repairs following a damaging pallet yard fire.
Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass toured the site Sunday and appeared with transportation officials at an early-afternoon briefing, where they offered no timetable for reopening the freeway, but promised a “24/7” operation and stressed that every possible effort was being made to hasten the safety evaluation and initiate the needed repairs.
A top Caltrans official termed it a “significant” challenge.
The freeway remains closed in both directions between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, with the closure also affecting connectors to Interstate 5 and the Hollywood (101) and Pomona (60) freeways.
While crews work to repair the damage, drivers will have to make detours until further notice.
For motorists who must traverse the downtown area, Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, urged them to refrain from exiting the freeway onto downtown surface streets. Instead, drivers are encouraged to transfer to the 110, 101 or 5 Freeways.
Doug Young, an assistant chief with the CHP, provided the following freeway detours:
- drivers on eastbound I-10 will be diverted at Alameda Street;
- drivers on the westbound 60 will be diverted to northbound I-5 or northbound 101;
- drivers on southbound I-5 will be diverted onto the westbound I-10 but must take the first exit at Mateo Street;
- drivers on northbound I-5 must divert to the northbound 101.
During a press conference Sunday, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said delays are expected for schools campuses in proximity to the site of the fire. He identified those campuses as:
- Ninth Street Elementary School
- 20th Street Elementary School
- Metropolitan Continuation High School
- Inner-City Arts
- Para Los Niños charter school
Additionally, he said some school bus routes will have to take detours until the freeway reopens. For more information, click here.
In a couple of press conferences held Sunday, Bass said the issue would “not be resolved in one or two days.” It is unclear when the stretch of freeway impacted by the fire will reopen.
With Newsom’s Saturday declaration of a state of emergency in response to the blaze, the governor said the state is “mobilizing resources & taking steps to ensure any necessary repairs are completed on the I-10 as soon as possible to minimize the impact on those traveling in & around Los Angeles.”
Caltrans District 7 spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said that hazardous materials specialists would determine whether the pallets were coated with toxic substances and identify the contents of 55-gallon drums on the site.
Caltrans engineers will only be allowed to assess freeway damage after the site is safe, Wonder said.
“They will test the concrete to see if it rings rather than makes a thud sound,” she said. That is how the engineers will determine the integrity of the pillars and bridge deck.
Caltrans said Sunday that samples were taken Saturday night and submitted to a lab, and structural engineers will begin more detailed work immediately.
While investigators assess the scene, inspectors check for safety and crews work to make repairs, Bass encouraged the public to take public transit to get around or work remotely if that is a viable option.
Residents are advised to visit emergency.lacity.gov for updates.
The initial fire was reported at 12:22 a.m. Saturday in the 1700 block of East 14th Street, two blocks west of Alameda Street, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Margaret Stewart.
Firefighters from 26 companies worked feverishly to contain and extinguish the major emergency fire, which started in one downtown pallet yard, spread to another and consumed a fire engine that became stuck in its path, Stewart said.
The first pallet yard was 40,000 square feet and was fully involved with flames that engulfed multiple trailers when firefighters arrived. The flames spread to the second pallet yard of similar size between Lawrence and Elwood streets.
Stewart said that by 2:33 a.m. Saturday, pallets in both yards were mostly consumed by the flames and firefighters were using bulldozers to move debris and put out hot spots.
LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley said the span of the fire incident was 8 acres, and that 164 firefighters worked through the night to put the flames out.
Arson investigators are looking into what caused the fire. Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, said the investigation is expected to be finished sometime Monday, with those findings going to city and state leaders. He did not say when that information would be made available to the public.
Mayor Bass said as of Sunday evening, there is no connection between the homeless encampment that was near the burn site and the fire. She added that about 10 to 15 unsheltered individuals who were living in that encampment were unharmed by the fire and have since been moved to a shelter.
Source: NBC Los Angeles