Good news for Los Angeles commuters: A crucial tranche of the 10 Freeway south of downtown L.A. will open Sunday night and will be ready for the busy morning commute – a day earlier than previously expected and weeks ahead of original projections.
“This thing opens tonight and will be fully operational tomorrow,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Sunday morning news conference where he was joined on the deck of the freeway by Mayor Karen Bass, Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Alex Padilla. “This is a significant and big day.”
The mile-long section of freeway between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue has been closed for more than a week, since a massive pallet fire broke out below it on Nov. 11. About 300,000 vehicles pass through this freeway corridor daily.
The closure did not cause widespread gridlock across the city’s freeway system, but it has snarled traffic in parts of the city and created longer-than-normal commutes for hundreds of thousands of Angelenos. Preliminary data from transportation officials also suggest that the closure has prompted more Angelenos to take public transit, heeding calls from local officials.
“Thanks to the heroic work of Caltrans and union construction crews and with help from our partners — from the Mayor’s office to the White House — the 10’s expedited repair is proof and a point of pride that here in California, we deliver,” Newsom said in an earlier statement.
Crews have been working around the clock to reopen the section of freeway, officials said.
In immediate aftermath of the fire, there had been fears that the damaged section of freeway might have to be demolished and replaced, potentially putting it out of commission for a far longer duration. But within days, it became clear that the impaired section could, in fact, be repaired, and Newsom announced Tuesday that the freeway would reopen in three to five weeks.
An all-hands-on-deck scramble toward a more ambitious target paid off, with Newsom telling reporters Thursday that all lanes in both directions would be open to traffic by this coming Tuesday “at the latest.”
The freeway will now be fully open to traffic by Monday morning. The Alameda Street off ramp will remain closed for repairs and there may be intermittent closures of the freeway in the future — probably at night or on weekends — to finish some of the structural repair work, Newsom said Sunday.
The fire is being investigated as an arson. The California Office of the State Fire Marshal on Saturday released a photo and description of a “person of interest” in connection with the fire.
Caltrans, the state transportation department that is part of Newsom’s administration, has long been aware of conditions under the freeway, where small businesses stored supplies including flammable wood pallets. Caltrans inspectors were on site as recently as Oct. 6, according to state officials, tenants and a lawyer for the company leasing the land.