I-10 bridge may be demolished after Los Angeles blaze

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Dive Brief:

  • California fire officials are investigating an intense blaze under a stretch of I-10 in downtown Los Angeles over the weekend as arson, according to the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.  
  • Newsom declared a state of emergency Saturday and pledged to repair as soon as possible the 10-lane wide, 450-foot long section of elevated freeway supported by approximately 100 columns. The span remains indefinitely closed. 
  • By late Monday, shoring had begun on the damaged pillars and engineers took core samples to determine the structural integrity of the span. The governor’s office said initial results were encouraging, but more testing is required to assess the full scope of the damage. “The structural integrity of the deck appears to be much stronger than originally assessed,” Newsom said during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Dive Insight:

Newsom stressed that officials were still considering demolishing the span and rebuilding it from the ground up. Photos showed fire-scorched and crumbling columns under the bridge deck, as well as twisted guardrails warped from a fire that began at a storage yard underneath the roadway, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. 

Newsom said that the state took legal action months ago to eject the lessee of the site, Apex Development Inc., a Southern California construction company, for failing to pay rent and violating its lease agreement by subletting the property without state and federal approval. Apex Development did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. 

Newsom’s office said the emergency declaration would facilitate cleanup and repair work on the highway. The governor’s edict also directed Caltrans, California’s DOT, to formally request assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, if appropriate. Shailen Blatt, administrator of the FHWA, toured the site Monday. 

Approximately 300,000 vehicles a day transit the span, a vital connector for cargo streaming in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Those ports handle more than half the goods coming into the country, according to the Associated Press, which reported President Joe Biden has been briefed on the impacts of the fire. 

Newsom called the damage “substantially greater” than a portion of Interstate 95 that collapsed on the East Coast in June after a tanker truck caught fire underneath it, according to CNN. While that repair was ultimately completed in two weeks at a cost of between $25 million to $30 million, officials in Los Angeles Monday did not put a timeline or cost estimate on fixing the roadway. The Associated Press reported that damage from a 2011 fire caused by a fuel tanker on State Route 60 east of Los Angeles took six months to repair at a cost of $40 million. 

In a post on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged the federal government’s support, saying the U.S. Department of Transportation “will help any way we can.”

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