Tanker fire: Freeway could reopen Friday afternoon
Demolition has begun on the east side of the bridge damaged in an oil tanker explosion on the 60 Freeway in Montebello, and Caltrans officials expected the freeway to be reopened by Friday evening.
Officials determined that reinforcing steel on that side of the bridge was compromised when the heat of the fire caused the outer layer of concrete to pop off. Engineers were taking core samples to assess damage to the west side of the bridge Thursday to determine whether it will need to be demolished.
If the west side of the bridge does not require demolition, the freeway will be reopened by noon Friday, said Mike Miles, director of Caltrans District 7. If it does need to be taken down, the freeway will reopen by 5 p.m.
"We're working 24 hours," Miles said.
Rebuilding the bridge will probably take several months, including the bidding and engineering process, he said.
The Paramount Boulevard bridge was built in the 1960s and has since been repaved and maintained.
"I don't think the age of the structure had anything to do with the extent of the damage," Miles said.
Capt. Omar Watson of the California Highway Patrol said the 60 Freeway serves as a truck route for freight bound from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Inland Empire. The truck traffic will move to surrounding freeways, adding to congestion over the next day.
The closure made for a miserable morning commute, with the 10, 210 and 5 freeways seeing extra traffic along with major surface streets flowing into downtown L.A. from the east.
The 60 Freeway is closed in both directions between the 605 and the 710 freeways through the weekend, said Officer Ed Jacobs, a public information officer at the California Highway Patrol.
Elijah Quesada, 25, left his Hacienda Heights home earlier than usual to make the 30-minute commute to Vernon. Using GPS and "knowledge of the streets," Quesada said it only took him 45 minutes to get to work after leaving home at 6 a.m.
The X-ray technician expressed patience even after experiencing some delays.
"We live in L.A.," he said. "We live in traffic. You have to learn to work around it."
-- Sam Quinones and Abby Sewell
Photo: The Paramount Boulevard bridge over the 60 Freeway is being repaired after Wednesday's fuel tanker fire. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times