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60 Freeway bridge rebuilding could be covered by federal funds

December 21, 2011 |  9:49 am

60 Freeway bridge fire
Demolition and repair of a Montebello freeway overpass damaged by a tanker explosion will be fully paid for with federal dollars if the job is completed within six months, a congresswoman said Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) said she is not sure how long the project will take because the bridge is still being demolished. But to qualify for reimbursement with federal emergency highway funds, the project must be done within 180 days, she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown's declaration of a state of emergency Tuesday begins the process of securing federal funds to reimburse state and local costs of repairing the Paramount Boulevard bridge.

Sanchez said Brown's office has been cooperative with her and the other congresswoman who represents the area, U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk).

Sanchez and Caltrans also plan to pursue whether the tanker trucking company could be held liable for the explosion. Insurance proceeds would potentially be tapped to help cover the costs, which is expected to soar into the millions.

State transportation workers and contractors have been working nightly from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to finish demolishing the bridge. They hope to complete that phase in the next couple of days and then move quickly to new construction, Sanchez said.

"It's a huge commuting corridor, and everyone agrees it needs to be reconstructed as quickly as possible,'' she said. "Congresswoman Napolitano and I are working at the federal level to make sure that happens."

A Caltrans spokeswoman said Wednesday that an investigation into the cause of the explosion will not be completed before Christmas.

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Photo: Montebello firefighters battle a blaze from a tanker truck Dec. 14 on the eastbound 60 Freeway underneath the Paramount Boulevard bridge. Credit: Keith Durflinger / San Gabriel Valley Newspapers

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