A crucial stretch of the 10 Freeway south of downtown Los Angeles reopened Sunday night, earlier than previously expected and weeks ahead of original projections.
Traffic started flowing on the freeway at around 7 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
The mile-long section of freeway between Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue had been closed for more than a week, since a massive pallet fire broke out below it Nov. 11. About 300,000 vehicles use the freeway corridor daily.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and L.A. Mayor Karen Bass stressed that it was the urgent action and collaboration of local, state and federal officials and construction crews that made it possible to get the freeway open so quickly. Repair crews have worked around the clock since the fire.
"This is a great day in our city," Bass said Sunday. "Let me thank everyone who worked 24 hours to make this effort happen."
Bass was joined on the deck of the freeway for a news conference Sunday morning by Newsom, Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
The closure did not cause widespread gridlock across the city's freeway system, but it did snarl traffic in parts of the city and created longer-than-normal commutes for hundreds of thousands of Angelenos. Preliminary data from transportation officials also suggested that the closure prompted more Angelenos to take public transit, heeding calls from local officials.
"Thanks to the heroic work of Caltrans and union construction crews and with help from our partners — from the Mayor's office to the White House — the 10's expedited repair is proof and a point of pride that here in California, we deliver," Newsom said in an earlier statement.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, there had been fears that the damaged section of freeway might have to be demolished and replaced, potentially putting it out of commission for a far longer duration. But within days, it became clear that the impaired section could, in fact, be repaired, and Newsom announced Tuesday that the freeway would reopen in three to five weeks.
An all-hands-on-deck scramble toward a more ambitious target paid off, with Newsom telling reporters last week that all lanes in both directions would be open to traffic by this coming Tuesday “at the latest.” Then, even that projection was bested with reopening of lanes on Sunday evening — well ahead of the holiday weekend.
At Sunday morning's news conference, Harris said, "To all Angelenos, I would just say this, tomorrow the commute is back on. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody."
The California Department of Transportation has long been aware of conditions under the freeway, where small businesses stored supplies including flammable wood pallets. Caltrans inspectors were on site as recently as Oct. 6, according to state officials, tenants and a lawyer for the company leasing the land.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.