Los Angeles city leaders gathered Sunday to address thethat forced the indefinite closure of I-10, making it clear that actions are being taken to alleviate the expected traffic nightmares that will inevitably accompany it.
Commuters have already been warned to expect delays as it is a major thoroughfare that is one of the largest routes to and from downtown Los Angeles.
During a press conference Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass provided additional information that Angelenos can refer to when planning their morning commute, directing them to the city’s downtown . Emergency Management Service.
“Our main message is: If you’re going through downtown, stay on the highway and take the route around it,” Bass said.
She asked businesses in affected areas to consider allowing their employees to work from home as the situation evolves, in the hope that this would ease the inevitable looming standoff.
“We also hope that downtown businesses will join us and leverage work-from-home policies to help reduce traffic,” Bass said. “I know we’ve spent this time trying to encourage people to come back downtown and back into their offices, but while we’re going through this crisis, we would like employers who can have their staff work remotely do it.”
The massive fire is estimated to have burned up to 100 columns under the highway, and the most pressing question is whether the highway deck itself will need to be replaced in the coming days.
While there is no timetable for when the highway will reopen, Bass said recovery and repair efforts are already underway.
“I want to assure Angelenos that we are working night and day to make the repairs necessary to restore the highway,” she said. “This is not going to be resolved in one or two days. (…) As we learn the extent of the damage, we will keep you informed. But we must stay together.”
The devastation left by the fire prompted California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in the region in order to acquire the funds and resources needed to handle the situation as quickly as possible.
Toks Omishakin, California’s Transportation Secretary, discussed statewide efforts on Sunday.
“This challenge on I-10 is the governor’s number one priority,” Omishakin said. “He called for a 24/7 operation of all state agencies involved in any way, from CalFire to Caltrans to CHP, it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
Omishakin said Caltrans was awarded a $3 million emergency contract to bring in a contractor to “test and dispose of hazardous materials, manage highway and road closures and carry out possible restoration of the structure”.
Bass said city officials will take a three-pronged approach to solving the problem, starting with making sure a plan is in place for commuters heading to the affected area. They will also ensure that the road is reopened to travelers as quickly as possible, with a focus on safety. Additionally, they will continue to provide the public with as many updates as possible to ensure everyone is informed every step of the way.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also spoke at the news conference, clarifying that no schools are expected to be closed Monday.
“We’re going to try to provide students with some degree of normalcy,” he said. “Not just educationally. Many of our students, because of their socioeconomic conditions, rely on the breakfast, lunch and enrichment activities that we provide as a school system.”
Carvalho said several schools will likely experience a significant impact on students and staff arriving and leaving school, including:
- Para Los Niños Primary School,
- 9th Street Middle School/Para Los Niños,
- 20th Street Elementary School,
- 28th Street Elementary School,
- Metropolitan Continuation High School,
- Downtown Arts,
- St. Turibius Catholic.
“We transport more than 40,000 students a day, especially students with disabilities and those from magnet schools,” he said. “We anticipate some degree of delay affecting a significant number of students throughout the day tomorrow and over the next few days and possibly weeks.”
Families were encouraged to contact the district to learn more about public transportation by calling 1-800-LA-BUSES (522-8737). More information was available via their website.
Laura Rubio-Cornejo, executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said the best option for those traveling to and from the area is public transit. She mainly suggested using the Metro rail system, which will allow people to avoid the affected area altogether.
“If you’re traveling in or around downtown Los Angeles, your best option is to take public transportation, especially the subway,” she said. “If you are driving and your route requires you to pass through downtown Los Angeles…please stay on the freeway. There are other routes you can use, including the 5, 101 and 110 freeways, to circumvent the closure.”
Stephanie Wiggins, Metro CEO and chair of the Metro Board of Directors, said travel can be planned on the Metro website, which provides a detailed map showing how to get to and from different locations. Additionally, travelers can receive last-minute information by calling (323) GO-METRO (466-3876).
Metrolink announced it will expand service on its San Bernardino line starting Monday morning. They will increase capacity and operate additional routes to and from Inland Empire stops and downtown Los Angeles.
Drivers using eastbound lanes are advised to:
- exit the highway at Alameda Street and 16th Street.
In order to get back to I-10 if necessary, they must:
- Head north on Alameda, east on Olympic Boulevard, and return as you approach Lemon Street.
- You can also head north on Alameda, east on 7th Street and take I-5.
Drivers traveling in westbound lanes are advised to:
- continue west on Washington Boulevard, north on Central Avenue and west again on 16th Street.
Detours will be made in the following areas:
- Eastbound I-10 will be detoured at Alameda Street,
- Westbound 60 will be detoured to northbound I-5 or northbound 101,
- Southbound I-5 will be detoured to westbound I-10 but will need to take the first exit onto Mateo Street,
- Northbound I-5 must be detoured to northbound 101.
In addition, traffic officers will be positioned throughout the area near the affected schools, from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., then from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. when students leave the school .