The 10 Freeway through downtown Los Angeles, once thought to be so badly damaged by fire that it would need to be demolished, will instead reopen by Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at a news conference Sunday morning.
Newsom was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass to provide an update on the repair efforts.
“This thing opens tonight,” he said. “It will be fully operational tomorrow [and] ready for the commute.”
Structural integrity assessment results indicated that the damage to the freeway was not as bad as originally thought, allowing officials to announce that the restoration process could be completed within three to five weeks.
When all is said and done, the restoration process will be completed eight days ahead of schedule, Newsom said.
Mayor Bass confirmed on social media that the 10 “is going to be safe to drive on” on Monday due to “urgent action and collaboration at all levels of government.”
Vice President Harris, a California native, praised local and state officials as well as crews who worked around the clock to fix the freeway.
“The work that happened here is extraordinary,” Harris said. “And it really is a function of the will and the ambition of the workers on the ground who understood what closure of the 10 would mean for folks on a daily basis.”
“We could give the fancy speeches all day long,” she continued. “But we are able to stand here and do this because they did this work on the ground.”
United States Senator Alex Padilla confirmed that the repairs would be covered by federal funding provided by a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“We don’t have the specific final price tag on this,” Senator Padilla said. “[It] may be a little bit more [or] a little bit less than three million dollars.”
The blaze initially broke out around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 11 in a storage yard near East 14th and Alameda streets in downtown Los Angeles.
Flames eventually engulfed both sides of 14th Street underneath the 10, and the heat was so intense that it melted some of the freeway’s steel guardrails, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said.
Initially, officials were concerned that the freeway had sustained structural damage that would require potentially months of repair work. But as engineers looked more closely, it became clear that the worst-case scenario -a demolition and rebuild- would not be necessary.
The site is owned by Caltrans as part of their Airspace and Telecommunications Licensing program, which is “responsible for leasing and managing those properties or sites held for a transportation purpose that can safely accommodate a secondary use,” according to their website.
Newsom confirmed that the fire was set with “malice intent” last Monday, saying that the fire burned within the property’s fence line and appeared to be an act of arson.
The freeway closure has affected thousands of Angelenos, who have been advised to take public transit; several train and bus routes have been discounted and sped up or had lines added to them in wake of the closure.
Anyone with information is urged to call the CalFire Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408. Information can also be submitted to the Arson and Bomb Unit by emailing email@example.com
The press conference can be viewed in the video player.