10 Freeway Closed in Desert Center After Bridge Collapses in Storm

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A worker walks near a collapsed 10 Freeway bridge in desert center on July 20, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)

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A nearly 50-mile stretch of the 10 Freeway remained shut down Monday due to a bridge collapse that occurred during a flash flood in the Mojave Desert the previous day, according to Caltrans.

A vehicle is seen at the site of a bridge collapse in Desert Center, Calif., or Sunday, July 18, 2015. (Credit: KMIR)
A vehicle is seen at the site of a bridge collapse in Desert Center, Calif., or Sunday, July 18, 2015. (Credit: KMIR)

Around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the eastbound interstate collapsed and the westbound lanes were “severely undermined” at the Adair Overcrossing of Tex Wash (map) near Eagle Mountain Road in the Desert Center area.

The site of the roadway failures is about 44 miles east of State Route 86 in Coachella and 42 miles west of the Arizona state line. The area is approximately 170 miles east of Los Angeles.

A 30-foot-by-50-foot section of the eastbound side of the 10 was washed away in the storm, and “the bridge is gone,” the California Highway Patrol’s incident log stated.

Lanes heading east were closed at State Route 86, southeast of Indio.

Westbound lanes were closed at State Route 177, in a remote area southeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

First responder arrive at the scene of a bridge and freeway collapse in the Desert Center area on July 19, 2015. (Credit: Cal Fire Riverside Chief Geoff Pemberton)
First responder arrive at the scene of a bridge and freeway collapse in the Desert Center area on July 19, 2015. (Credit: Cal Fire Riverside Chief Geoff Pemberton)

The Arizona Department of Transportation prevented motorists from entering the freeway in Quartzsite, instead directing traffic onto State Route 95. Access to the 10 Freeway in Arizona resumed about 2:30 p.m. Monday, the state agency said on Twitter.

The damaging flash flood came as a record-breaking, unseasonable July storm swept across Southern California over the weekend.

One person sustained moderate injuries when a pickup truck went over the side of the roadway in the bridge collapse, trapping the driver inside the vehicle, according to CHP and Cal Fire’s Riverside division.

With waters in the wash rising rapidly and debris falling, first responders had to use tools underwater to extricate the driver, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The driver was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palms Springs. No other injuries were reported.

Structural engineers were on Monday assessing the damage, as well as other surrounding washes and structures in the immediate area of the collapsed bridge, a news release from the agency stated.

A worker walks near a collapsed 10 Freeway bridge in desert center on July 20, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)
A worker walks near a collapsed 10 Freeway bridge in desert center on July 20, 2015. (Credit: KTLA)

Because the assessment was not complete, Caltrans spokesman Philip Havins said Monday afternoon that there was no estimate available for when the freeway would reopen.

On Sunday night, CHP said the closure was expected to be “long-term.”

In the meantime, motorists were being advised to avoid traveling on the 10 Freeway “until further notice,” and to use other detour routes.

Though drivers can take the 62 and 177 around Joshua Tree National Park to avoid the closure area, Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman strongly recommended that drivers take the 40 Freeway and avoid traveling through small desert towns.

Interstate 8 to State Route 111 and onto Route 86 was another Caltrans-recommended detour.

The 10 Freeway plays a critical role in providing connections to Southern California ports, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers, according to Caltrans. About 27,000 vehicles travel on the Interstate between Coachella and Arizona on a daily basis.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect location for the closure of eastbound freeway traffic. The story has been updated.

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