Closed downtown LA freeway to wreak havoc on morning commute

Transportation officials in Southern California are urging anyone who needs to go in and around downtown Los Angeles to “plan for extra time for your morning commute, work from home if you can or take public transit.”

Monday’s morning commute will be the first test for people living, working and visiting the area while a portion of Interstate 10 remains closed after a massive fire broke out underneath a freeway bridge on Saturday.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) says the closure is between Alameda Street and the East LA interchange. 

 The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, better known as Metro, suggests using their services and other public transit to avoid the I-10 closure. 

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“LADOT Official buses are another way to get around the city of LA,” Metro writes on a dedicated website page regarding the closure. 

The mile-long I-10 closure will have ripple effects on surface streets and other key freeways, including State Route 60 and Interstate 5, the California Highway Patrol said.

During a news conference Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said officials cannot offer a timeline for when the corridor that 300,000 vehicles typically travel daily might reopen. 

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“Remember, this is an investigation as to the cause of how this occurred, as well as a hazmat and structural engineering question,” Newsom, who issues a state of emergency in Los Angeles County said. “Can you open a few lanes? Can you retrofit the columns? Is the bridge deck intact to allow for a few lanes to remain open again?”

The governor said Sunday that the state has been in litigation with the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire started. The lease is expired, Newsom said, and the business had been in arrears while subleasing the space. “This is a site we were aware of, this is a lessee we were aware of,” he said.

The fire was first reported just before 12:30 a.m. Saturday in the 1700 block of East 14th Street, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The first pallet yard was approximately 40,000 square feet and fully engulfed by flames, including multiple trailers, authorities said.

“LA Fire said the heat from the flames could easily have been in excess of 1,200 degrees, causing concrete to fly off pillars like popcorn. Cars stored under the freeway were scorched; many wood pallets fed the flames. One of the first fire engines on the scene early Saturday morning was also scorched,” FOX 11 reported. 

California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin said storage yards under highways are common statewide and across the country. He said the practice would be re-evaluated following the fire.

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At least 16 homeless people living underneath the highway were evacuated and brought to shelters, Bass said. Officials said there was no immediate indication that the blaze began at the encampment, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

According to authorities, over 160 firefighters worked to contain and extinguish the fire.

Fox News’ Stepheny Price and The Associated Press contributed to this report.