A section of the 10 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles that was damaged by a massive fire over the weekend will not need to be demolished, officials announced Tuesday, but repairs will take several weeks, complicating commutes through one of the country’s busiest freeway corridors.
“This is not a demo operation. This is a repair operation,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday morning at the site of the fire, which started under the overpass at Alameda Street early Saturday.
Core samples taken from the freeway columns and bridge deck showed that damage from the pallet-fueled fire was not as extensive as it could have been in a worst-case scenario. Though a teardown will not be necessary, repair work will take three to five weeks, Newsom said.
“I want to see something much faster,” Newsom added.
Traffic lanes on the overpass could be partially reopened during construction, officials said, but the timeline for a full reopening is to be determined.
“Angelenos, it’s good news,” Mayor Karen Bass said at Tuesday’s news conference with state and local officials. “Instead of months, we are talking about weeks, as the governor mentioned. But it’s still three to five weeks in Los Angeles for this freeway not to be in operation.”
More than 100 columns along the swath of the freeway were damaged — nine or 10 of them severely — Newsom said.
Construction crews erected wooden structures to shore up the overpass while the repair work gets underway.
A bridge engineer with the California Department of Transportation who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity told The Times that preliminary tests showed that damage from Saturday’s massive fire is not as severe as initially feared.
Caltrans engineers met with senior management Monday to provide an assessment of the damage and possible timelines for getting traffic moving again across this critical link in the region’s freeway system.
“The results were very good,” said the engineer, who described two scenarios contingent on the damaged freeway being shored up and supported from underneath.
In the worst case, the shoring will be removed in stages — one direction, then another — so lanes can be replaced and portions of the road can be kept open to traffic. In the best-case scenario, the shoring will stay in place, allowing repairs to be made without closing lanes.
A Caltrans spokesperson declined to comment on the engineer’s statements.
The fire is now the subject of an arson investigation.
The fire began under the overpass at Alameda Street early Saturday morning, fueled by wood pallets stored there.
Although the exact cause of the fire has not been revealed, “there was [malicious] intent,” Newsom said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
In addition to pallets, sanitizer accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was stored beneath the overpass and helped fuel the flames, according to sources familiar with the probe who were not authorized to discuss details of the investigation and requested anonymity.
State Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant appealed for witnesses to call a tip line with information and noted those tips could be given anonymously.
“We have identified the point of origin of the fire,” Berlant said. He would not provide further detail, saying the investigation was ongoing. Berlant said investigators had dug through the rubble for evidence and canvassed the neighborhood for witnesses.
Officials said the property where the fire broke out was being leased by Calabasas-based Apex Development Inc., which was subleasing the storage site under the overpass without permission from state and federal agencies. The company stopped paying rent, according to Newsom, and had been out of compliance with its lease agreement.
Federal, state and local agencies are scrambling to determine what happens next after the sudden closure of the mile-long section of the heavily trafficked freeway between Alameda Street and the East L.A interchange, a key east-west route through downtown.
Monday saw serious traffic issues in downtown L.A. Officials urged people to take mass transit or work from home, if possible.
- 10 Freeway between East L.A. interchange and Alameda Street.
- 10 Freeway westbound diverted at Santa Fe Avenue.
- 5 Freeway north and south transition to 10 Freeway westbound.
- 60 Freeway transition east and west to 10 Freeway westbound.
- Alameda Street closed in area.
Here are alternative routes from the L.A. Department of Transportation:
- Eastbound 10: Exit the freeway at Alameda Street and 16th Street. To detour back onto the freeway, head north on Alameda, then east on Olympic Boulevard and reenter the 10 East mid-block on the approach to Lemon Street. Alternatively, head north on Alameda and east on 7th Street, and enter the 5 Freeway. All 10 eastbound freeway onramps between the 110 Freeway and Alameda are closed at this time.
- Westbound 10: Reenter the 10 Freeway westbound by traveling west on Washington Boulevard, north on Central Avenue, and west again on 16th Street.
Metro provided details on some mass transit lines available during the closure:
- Line 78 (Huntington)
- Line 18 (6th Street)
- Line 66 (Olympic)
- Line 30 (Pico)
- Line 33 (Venice)
- E Line train (formerly the Expo Line)
- A Line train (formerly the Blue and Gold lines)
- J Line bus
- Officials said LADOT Commuter Express buses around downtown L.A. could see scheduling changes and rerouting due to the 10 Freeway closure.