LOS ANGELES (AP) — An elevated freeway in Los Angeles Closed more than a week ago Due to arson reopening prior to Monday morning flight, at least one day earlier than previously announced and weeks ahead of original estimate.
“Welcome back, Los Angeles!” Mayor Karen Bass posted late Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The Nov. 11 fire, fueled by flammable materials stored under the road in violation of the company’s lease, closed a mile-long stretch of Interstate 10 near downtown, snarling traffic while repair crews worked around the clock. the hour. Officials had said last week that all lanes were expected to reopen by Tuesday, however I moved it to Monday After great progress.
governor. Gavin Newsom said recent safety inspections showed the road was safe to begin reopening on Sunday evening and that the highway would be “fully operational” before rush hour on Monday.
“It wasn’t just speed that we were after. We wanted to make sure this thing was safe,” Alex Padilla and Bass said.
Officials had initially said it might take about 250 workers Between three and five weeks To support the extension after the fire 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 complete this effort.”
Officials said there will be periodic closures in the coming weeks or months as repairs continue. An estimated 300,000 vehicles daily use the highway, which runs east-west through the heart of the city and connects to other major highways.
Padilla estimated that initial repairs, which are expected to be covered by federal funds, will cost $3 million.
State investigators repeatedly identified fire and safety risks in rented storage space under an elevated Los Angeles freeway before it burned in the blaze, documents show.
The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, released the documents on Friday. Investigators said Saturday they were asking for help locating a “person of interest” and posted two photos in a “crime alert notice” on Social media It shows a man in his 30s wearing a brace on his right knee and apparent burn injuries on his left leg.
The photos were released by Cal Fire and the state fire marshal, whose office is investigating the fire but has not said how it was identified.
While investigators have not said how the fire was started, the fire was fueled by pallets, cars, building materials, hand sanitizer and other items being transported. Stored under the highway Under a little-known program that is now under scrutiny. Newsom said the state will reevaluate the practice of leasing land under roads to bring in money for mass transit projects.
Hired by Apex Development Inc. The land has been under I-10 since 2008. Although one of the terms of the contract stipulated that it did not allow flammable or hazardous materials to be stored there, state inspectors have visited the site six times since early 2020 and have reported condition problems for years.
“This is a filthy lease that has not been maintained,” Inspector Darrell Myatt wrote in a 2022 report after a surprise inspection discovered solvents, oils, fuels and other items banned under the agreement. “This area has been in use since the mid-1970s and appears to be the same.”
The owners of two of the companies that sublet the property said they also warned of the fire risk and other dangers related to homeless people living under the highway. Newsom previously said that although subleasing could be legal if the company obtained permission from state and federal regulators, Apex did not.
In September, state officials filed a lawsuit against Apex, saying it owed $78,000 in unpaid rent. A hearing is scheduled for next year.
The state’s last spot inspection, a little more than a month before the Nov. 11 fire, found “numerous lease violations,” but documents released Friday did not elaborate.
Caltrans “notified Apex Development of the need to address violations, especially those that pose safety risks,” the agency said in a statement.
Mainak Dattarai, a lawyer for Apex Development, said on Wednesday that the company was not responsible for the fire, adding that the company had not been able to access the building since October.
“Apex leased the dilapidated arena, improved it and made significant capital investments during the period it owned the arena,” Dattarai’s statement added. “Caltrans inspected the building periodically, at least once a year, and CalTrans was fully aware of the subtenants and their operations. The California State Fire Marshal even inspected the building.”
Dattarai did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Izzy Gordon, a spokesman for the governor, last week disagreed with Dattarai’s statement that Apex was not responsible. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection – Cal Fire – believes the fire was caused “in a fenced area that Apex was responsible for maintaining while it continued to assert rights under the lease,” Gordon said.
Brandon Richards, another Newsom spokesman, reiterated the governor’s directive for Caltrans to conduct a comprehensive review of all leased sites within the state’s highways. Richards did not address whether or not anyone at Caltrans faces discipline.
No injuries were reported in the fire, but the number of injured reached at least 16 people Homeless people Those living in a camp there were moved to shelters.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tarin contributed from Chicago.