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Rush Hour Traffic Resumes on Los Angeles Freeway After Arson Fire is Put Out

Los Angeles (AP) — An elevated Los Angeles freeway that was closed for over a week due to an arson fire has reopened ahead of Monday morning’s commute, at least a day earlier than planned and weeks ahead of the original estimate.

“Welcome back, Los Angeles!” Mayor Karen Bass posted late Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The November 11 blaze, fueled by flammable materials stored under the roadway in violation of a company’s lease, forced the closure of a mile-long stretch of Interstate 10 near downtown, causing traffic congestion as repair crews worked around the clock. Officials had initially projected that all lanes would reopen by Tuesday, but moved the timeline up to Monday after significant progress.

Governor Gavin Newsom stated that recent safety inspections confirmed 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, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, and Bass.

Initially, officials estimated that it would take about 250 workers between three and five weeks to reinforce the span after the fire damaged 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 intermittent closures in the following weeks or months as repairs continue, officials disclosed. An estimated 300,000 vehicles utilize the freeway daily, which runs east-west across the heart of the metropolis and connects with other major highways.

Padilla estimated that the initial repairs, which are expected to be funded by federal funds, would cost $3 million.

State investigators discovered fire and safety hazards at a leased storage space under an elevated Los Angeles freeway prior to it burning in the fire, documents revealed.

The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, released the documents indicating that investigators are seeking help locating a “person of interest” and issued a “crime alert notification” with two photos on social media showing a man in his 30s with a brace on his right knee and apparent burn injuries on his left leg.

The photographs were released by Cal Fire and the State Fire Marshal, whose office is investigating the blaze but did not reveal how he was identified.

While investigators have not disclosed how the fire was started, the blaze was fueled by pallets, cars, construction materials, hand sanitizer, and other items being stored under the freeway under a little-known program that is now under scrutiny. Newsom has stated that the state will reassess the practice of leasing land under roads to generate revenue 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.

“This is a filthy unmaintained lease,” inspector Daryl Myatt wrote in a 2022 report after a surprise inspection discovered solvents, oils, fuels, and other items prohibited by the agreement. “This area has been utilized since the mid-1970s and looks like it.”

Owners of two of the companies that subleased the property said they also had warned of a fire danger and other hazards related to homeless people living under the freeway. Newsom previously said that while subleasing can be legal if the company received permission from state and federal regulators, Apex did not.

In September, state officials filed a lawsuit against Apex stating it…

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