I-10 in Los Angeles Reopens Eight Days After Fire Closure

$3 Million in Emergency Federal Funding Helps to Get Traffic Flowing Again
California officials greet construction workers
Vice President Kamala Harris greets freeway construction workers with Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. (Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Hard work by first responders, skilled workers and engineers, and an infusion of $3 million of federal emergency funding led to the early reopening of a stretch of Interstate 10 through downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 19.

The road had been shut for eight days when an overpass collapsed due to a fire. The Nov. 11 blaze, believed to be the work of an arsonist, remains under investigation.

Early on, officials said it would take three to five weeks to make the repairs to reopen the major artery that is estimated to carry 300,000 vehicles a day, including roughly 13,000 trucks, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

However, it only took eight days to repair the damage, and officials said traffic is now flowing on five lanes on I-10 in each direction between Alameda Street and the East Los Angeles interchange in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, reducing the disruption to Los Angeles commuters.

David Heller, senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association, said the group had not heard of any serious delays from members.

Construction under I-10

Construction crews shore up the fire-damaged I-10 in Los Angeles on Nov. 16. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

Almost immediately after the fire, fed by flammable materials stored under the roadway, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared the collapse of the wood supports and bridge deck near downtown a state of emergency, making it easier for Caltrans to seek federal assistance funding.

Newsom said at a Nov. 15 news conference that economic damages of the I-10 shutdown would be greater than those during the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif.

“300,000-plus vehicles go through this corridor every single day,” Newsom said. “It’s of significant consequence to the economy, and to the health and safety of Angelenos.”

Fortunately, on Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FHWA announced the immediate availability of $3 million in “quick release” Emergency Relief funds for use by Caltrans to offset costs of emergency repair work on I-10 due to the fire damages that resulted in a closure of the interstate in both directions.

“This segment of I-10 is a vital corridor in our interstate highway system, and it’s important to hundreds of thousands of commuters as well as to America’s supply chains that it be quickly repaired,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “These federal emergency funds will help California launch this urgent repair work, and the Biden-Harris administration stands ready to provide further resources as necessary to address this issue quickly and safely.”

“We know the I-10 corridor is a critical connection for both people and goods traveling in and around Los Angeles,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “The quick release funding we’re providing Caltrans is the first of many steps we are taking to help California get this key route open as soon as possible for the workers, residents and businesses that rely on this route every day.”

“The 10 will be safe to drive on weeks ahead of schedule because of urgent action and collaboration at all levels of government,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. “When we work together, nothing can stop Los Angeles. Right when this happened, I heard from our state and federal partners that they would let nothing stand in our way.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

“The White House and the Governor’s Office not only lived up to that promise, they helped us exceed all expectations. Today is proof of locking arms delivering real results for the people of this city.”

“The work that happened here is extraordinary,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during a visit to the scene on Nov. 19. “It was possible with the will and ambition of the workers on the ground, and their commitment as public servants and as union members to get this done and deliver for the people of Los Angeles. This is the kind of work that is happening around the country — where hard-working men and women, carpenters, laborers, and government workers, are rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”