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 at a news conference Thursday evening at the site of the fire in downtown Los Angeles.
More than 100 columns along the swath of the freeway were damaged — nine or 10 of them severely, officials said. Construction crews have erected wooden structures to shore up the overpass while the repair work gets underway.
“By Tuesday next week, trucks, passenger vehicles in both directions will be moving again,” Newsom said. “We’ve doubled the crews, we’ve doubled down on our efforts here.”
Newsom said 250 contractors were working on repairing the bridge, including 30 carpenters joining efforts in the most recent day.
“Things continue to move favorably in our direction,” Newsom said. “The bridge structure itself seems to be in better shape than we anticipated.”
Mayor Karen Bass thanked Los Angeles residents who had switched to public transit and heeded calls to avoid crowding surface streets while the 10 remained closed this past week.
“This is a good day in Los Angeles,” Bass said.
Gloria Roberts, appointed director of Caltrans District 7, thanked the governor and mayor for their leadership. She also praised Caltrans workers who had logged numerous hours at the site.
“Proud to bleed orange,” she said, sparking chuckles and smiles from the governor and mayor.
The fire, which arson investigators believe was intentionally set, started at a property under the 10 that was being leased from the California Department of Transportation. No arrests have been made, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Although the exact cause of the fire has not been revealed, “there was [malicious] intent,” Newsom said at a news conference Monday afternoon. The cost of the repair project also remains under assessment.
In addition to pallets, sanitizer accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was stored under the overpass and helped fuel the flames, according to sources familiar with the probe 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 freeway caught fire and spread to a second pallet yard, damaging the freeway overpass and destroying several vehicles, including a firetruck, authorities said.
As part of its investigation, the Los Angeles Fire Department will inspect other underpasses in the city, according to Mayor Bass.
“L.A. city wants to make sure our house is in order,” she said. “We have a number of leases under the freeway as well. So we are looking at those to make sure that what we’re doing is appropriate as well.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that immigrant businesses had occupied the space beneath the freeway while their landlord dodged Caltrans, to which it owed thousands of dollars in unpaid rent. State officials, tenants and a lawyer for the company leasing the land maintain that Caltrans was long aware of conditions under the freeway that fueled the fire.