California Reopens Burnt Freeway, Releases Suspect Photos

I-10 was reopened well ahead of initial schedule
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2023 11:00 AM CST
LA Freeway Reopens After Arson
Construction workers work Sunday on repairs to the I-10 freeway, which was closed by an underpass fire on Nov. 11 in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

An elevated Los Angeles freeway closed for more than a week because of an arson fire reopened ahead of Monday morning's commute, at least a day earlier than previously announced and weeks ahead of the original estimate. "The 10 is BACK! ... This is what happens when we work together—NOTHING can stop Los Angeles," Mayor Karen Bass posted late Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter. The Nov. 11 blaze, fed by flammable materials stored under the roadway in violation of a company's lease, shut a milelong stretch of Interstate 10 near downtown, snarling traffic as repair crews worked around the clock. Officials had said last week that all lanes were expected to reopen by Tuesday, reports the AP, but that opening date was moved up to Monday after significant progress.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said recent safety inspections showed the span was safe to start reopening Sunday evening and that the freeway would be "fully operational" before Monday's rush hour. "It wasn't just speed that we were after. We wanted to make sure this thing was safe," Newsom said at a news conference, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, US Sen. Alex Padilla, and Bass. Officials had initially said it could take about 250 workers between three to five weeks to shore up the span after the blaze burned about 100 support columns. "This is a great day in our city," Bass said Sunday. "Let me thank everyone who worked 24 hours to make this effort happen."

There will be periodic closures in the coming weeks or months as repairs continue, officials said. An estimated 300,000 vehicles a day use the freeway, which runs east-west across the heart of the metropolis and connects with other major highways. Padilla estimated the initial repairs, which are expected to be covered by federal funds, would cost $3 million. State investigators repeatedly identified fire and safety hazards at a leased storage space under the elevated Los Angeles freeway before it burned in the fire, documents show. Investigators said Saturday they're seeking help locating a "person of interest" and released two photos in a "crime alert notification" on social media showing a man in his 30s with a brace on his right knee and apparent burn injuries on his left leg.

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The photos were released by Cal Fire and the State Fire Marshal, whose office is investigating the blaze but didn't say how he was identified. While investigators haven't said how the fire was set, the blaze was fed by pallets, cars, construction materials, hand sanitizer, and other items being stored under the freeway under a little-known program that now is under scrutiny. Newsom has said the state will reassess the practice of leasing land under roads to bring in money for mass transportation projects. Apex Development Inc. has leased the land under I-10 since 2008. Although one condition of the contract stipulated that it not allow the storage of flammable or hazardous materials there, state inspectors have visited the site six times since early 2020 and flagged problematic conditions for years. More here.

(More freeway stories.)

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