LA Traffic Is About To Get Ten Times Worse. [Update: Cause of Fire Determined To Be Arson]

Burnt down firetruck underneath I10 Freeway in Los Angeles. Firefighter approaching from left side. smoke billowing.
Burnt down firetruck underneath I10 Freeway in Los Angeles. Firefighter approaching from left side. smoke billowing.

Firefighters look at the their Fire Engine 17 that got burnt in a massive pallet fire under I-10 Freeway overpass at 1700 block of East 14th Street on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA.

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.

Updated Tuesday November 14, 2:00 p.m. EST officials found the cause of the blaze to be arson, though there are currently no suspects.

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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.

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