Los Angeles County is in a state of emergency after a massive fire early Saturday morning indefinitely shut down a busy mile-long stretch of the I-10 Freeway.
Due to the bidirectional freeway shutdown, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for LA County, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass referred to the closure as a crisis for the city that’s already world renowned for its traffic jams. The disrupting fire erupted from an under-freeway storage lot filled with wooden shipping pallets, cars, trailers and other various items. There were no reports of injuries according to CNN:.
Hazmat teams will work around the clock to clean up the damage on Interstate 10, according to Newsom, who said the scale of the fire’s damage is “substantially greater” than the collapse of a portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia in June.
Both directions of this stretch of freeway are currently closed indefinitely as the structural integrity of the overpass is analyzed. Depending on what is discovered in the analysis, the roadway may require intense reconstruction which would devastate travel times in the city for weeks.
Gov. Newsom said more than 300,000 vehicles travel through the affected freeway corridor every day, and now each of those vehicles will be forced to find alternative routes through the busy section of Downtown LA near Alameda Street in the Arts District.
According to an Associated Press report on the blaze, “More than 160 firefighters from more than two dozen companies responded to the blaze, which spread across 8 acres (3 hectares) — the equivalent of about six football fields — and burned for three hours. The highway’s columns are charred and chipped, and guardrails along the deck are twisted and blackened.”
Many are questioning why such a tinderbox of flammable material was allowed to be stored under the highly trafficked overpass, which Gov. Newsom said is still being assessed. The storage lots that caught fire were home to large quantities of wooden shipping pallets, vehicles, and trailers. According to CNN:
Those impacted by the shutdown are advised to work from home if possible, the state Department of Transportation said. Nearby school bus routes are also likely to change, though public schools will remain open, the LA Unified School District announced.
Los Angeles is a city founded on car culture, and was the birthplace of the modern interstate system as we know it. In this notoriously sprawling city, residents are known to have some pretty gnarly commutes which will only become gnarlier thanks to this blaze.
Monday was the first weekday since the shutdown, but according to Associated Press reporting, many commuters heeded the warnings sent out in preparation for the first rush hour sans the 10.
In looking at the traffic data earlier this morning, I am somewhat pleased to say that the congestion was a little bit lighter than normal,” said Rafael Molina, deputy district director for the division of traffic at the California Department of Transportation. “However, please — if you don’t need to be in downtown Los Angeles — please avoid those trips.
Hopefully, California can learn from Pennsylvania’s example; that state managed to get the I-95 back up and running 12 days after a tanker truck fire caused part of the busy freeway to collapse earlier this year.