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10 Freeway bridge collapse: Caltrans offers alternative routes; Truckers will be most affected

In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
Chief Geoff Pemberton/CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire via AP
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, waters rush under an the elevated portion westbound Interstate 10 as emergency crews respond to the collapse of the eastbound section, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
Chief Geoff Pemberton/AP
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews respond after a pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
In this photo provided by the CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, emergency crews help a driver after their pickup truck crashed into the collapse of an elevated section of Interstate 10, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Desert Center, Calif. The bridge, which carries the eastbound interstate about 15 feet above a normally dry wash, snapped and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona.
Chief Geoff Pemberton/AP


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All traffic along a major freeway connecting California and Arizona was blocked indefinitely when a bridge over a desert wash collapsed during heavy rain, and the roadway in the opposite direction suffered severe damage. A second bridge also appeared to have sustained damage in the storm.

Alternate routes | Video

Updates

Update 5:20 p.m.: Detours will affect truckers most

The detours bypassing a collapsed bridge on the 10 Freeway will be brutal for drivers heading east, but truckers will bare the brunt of the headaches.

Drivers heading south past the Salton Sea to El Centro can look forward to a 450 mile commute; those using the north detour past 29 Palms will be driving around 125 miles. 

But pity the poor truckers who have to drive slower, whose cargo is often perishable, and who can only drive for so long without breaks.

"We’re certainly concerned because [in] Southern California, we’re handling 40 percent of our nation’s containerized cargo, and a big chunk of that heads eastward on Interstate 10,” said RJ Cervantes, legislative director with the California Trucking Association.  "The biggest impact is [that] we can’t give our customers a good sense of predictability on when they are being able to receive their goods."

He says trucking companies are looking to Caltrans for a short-term fix to get the traffic flowing on I-10 again.

They're also pressing the legislature for a long term plan to improve California’s highways. At the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers have convened an ongoing special session to come up with a plan to fund some $5.7 billion in road and bridge repair, as well as other construction projects that don’t have funding in the current budget. 

Update 2:08 p.m.: Bridge was 'fine' before collapse

The bridge that collapsed on the 10 Freeway near Desert Center was "fine" before it was undermined by severe rain and flooding on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration.

A data entry error incorrectly placed the bridge that collapsed into the "functionally obsolete" category and the FHWA has been working to correct earlier statements by Caltrans, Doug Hecox with the administration's public affairs office told KPCC.

"It did not crumble because it was obsolete. It crumbled because it got hit with a wall of water," Hecox said.

Traffic volumes along the 10 between Coachella and Arizona average about 27,000 vehicles per day, according to Caltrans. Hecox said that is a fairly light load.

Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga also said heavy rain caused the bridge to be inundated with water, boulders and debris and that’s what took the bridge down.

Caltrans said Monday its structural engineers must inspect the location of the collapse and other washes and bridges along that stretch before they can even come up with an estimate of what work is needed and when the interstate could reopen.

In the meantime, Caltrans suggested the following detours:

The Desert Sun has mapped those alternative routes, which you can see below: 

— Sharon McNary with KPCC staff

12:18 p.m.: I-10 bridge passed inspection in March

Transportation officials say a bridge along California's Interstate 10 that collapsed during a storm passed inspection earlier this year.

Will Schuck with the California Department of Transportation said Monday that inspectors found no safety issues during an inspection on March 17.

The bridge, which spans a desert gully, was built in 1967. It collapsed Sunday during heavy rains, indefinitely severing a major artery between Southern California and Arizona.

The National Weather Service says rain fell at a rate of 1.5 inches an hour before floodwaters washed the bridge out. A total of 6.7 inches fell Sunday near Desert Center, California.

Inspectors planned to assess all bridges along a 30-mile stretch of the interstate after a second bridge showed signs of damage following the storm.

— AP

8:29 a.m.: Another bridge damaged during storm that caused collapse

Officials say at least one other bridge along the freeway that connects California and Arizona is showing signs of damage near where a span over a desert wash collapsed during a storm.

Terri Kasinga, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation, said early Monday that all bridges would be inspected along a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 10. She didn't know how many bridges that stretch includes.

The agency did not detail the damage to the bridge a few miles from the collapse site.

The bridge for eastbound traffic gave way Sunday and ended up in the floodwaters below. I-10 is closed indefinitely in both directions.

Flash flood watches remain in place, and a third day of showers is expected as the remnants of a tropical storm off Baja California continued to push north.

— AP

6:54 a.m.: Rain causes I-10 bridge collapse; travel woes could last

All traffic along a major freeway connecting California and Arizona was blocked indefinitely when a bridge over a desert wash collapsed during heavy rain, and the roadway in the opposite direction suffered severe damage, authorities said.

The collapse on Interstate 10 in southeastern California Sunday afternoon left one driver injured, stranded numerous motorists and complicated travel for countless thousands for what officials warned could be a long time.

"Interstate 10 is closed completely and indefinitely," said Terri Kasinga, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

The closure will force motorists seeking to use I-10 to travel between California and Arizona to go hundreds of miles out of their way to Interstate 8 to the south or Interstate 40 to the north.

Busy I-10 is the most direct route between the Los Angeles area and Phoenix. An average of more than 20,000 cars per day pass through the area that is shut down, according to federal highway statistics.

The bridge for eastbound traffic about 15 feet above the wash about 50 miles west of the Arizona state line gave way and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona. One driver of a pickup truck that fell with the freeway had moderate injuries, officials said.

The westbound section of the freeway near the tiny town of Desert Center was also closed. The roadway was intact but extremely undermined by flooding and could need just-as-extensive rebuilding, Kasinga said.

No timeframe was given for when either side would reopen as crews were diverted from other projects to examine the site.

"They won't even be able to begin assessing the damage until Monday," Kasinga said.

Transportation officials recommended travelers on the east side of the collapse use U.S. Highway 95 in Arizona to get to the other freeways, and that in California drivers use state routes 86 and 111 to get to Interstate 8 into Arizona.

One driver had to be rescued from a pickup truck that crashed in the collapse and was taken to a hospital with moderate injuries, the Riverside County Fire Department said. A passenger from the truck was able to get out without help and wasn't hurt.

Hundreds of other cars were stranded immediately after the collapse, but the California Highway Patrol was working to divert them in the other direction off the freeway and it wasn't clear if any remained, Kasinga said.

Pamala Browne, 53, and her daughter were driving from Flagstaff, Arizona to Palm Desert, California when they got stranded when the westbound lanes were shutdown.

"Oh my God, we are so stuck out here," Browne told the Desert Sun newspaper. "There's no end to the cars that are stuck out here."

The rains came amid a second day of showers and thunderstorms in southern and central California that were setting rainfall records in what is usually a dry month.

Rain fell Sunday afternoon in parts of Los Angeles County's mountains, the valley north and inland urban areas to the east as remnants of tropical storm Dolores brought warm, muggy conditions northward.

The showers forced the Los Angeles Angels' first rainout in 20 years and the San Diego Padres' first rainout since 2006.

Saturday's rainfall broke records in at least 11 locations, including five places that had the most rain ever recorded on any day in July, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.

July is typically the driest month of the year in Southern California. Because of that, Saturday's 0.36 inch of rain in downtown Los Angeles exceeded the 0.24 inch recorded July 14, 1886, which had been the wettest July day in nearly 130 years.

The storm brought weekend flash floods and power outages and turned Los Angeles County's typically packed coast into empty stretches of sand when the threat of lightning forced authorities to close 70 miles of beaches.

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Meanwhile, the summer storm has helped firefighters advance on two wildfires that broke out Friday.

Muggy, moist conditions were expected to persist through Monday.

— Associated Press reporters Andrew Dalton and Tami Abdollah

This story has been updated.