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The 15 Freeway bridge fire and collapse will cost millions to repair, and the construction tab comes just as the bridge was nearing the end of a long and expensive project to do just that: repair the bridge. All lanes reopened after days of frustrating traffic delays for commuters. Jacob Rascon reports for the NBC4 News at Noon Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
While drivers were relieved to see the reopened 15 Freeway, the city of Hesperia is left with a major setback on a part of a long-awaited project that was nearing completion.
Workers tore down the remnants of the Ranchero Bridge, which took more than a year to construct, adding $5 million onto the $59 million price tag of the bridge's expansion project.
"We'll work with the insurance process that's in place on every contract that we have at SANBAG to make sure we can recover that loss," a San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) spokesman said.
The fire sparked accidentally by a worker's blowtorch ignited the Ranchero Bridge's wooden supports Monday afternoon and took more than 17 hours to extinguish in high winds.
For more nearly two days, Mojave Desert commuters were trapped for hours and sat in a 20-mile backup at one point.
The middle portion of the bridge completely collapsed Tuesday morning.
The bridge was intended to carry Ranchero Road over eight lanes of the freeway as part of a $59 million, two-year interchange project in Hesperia.
Construction was expected to end in early 2015 but will now march on with at least six months added to its completion date, according to Caltrans. Before the fire, the bridge was days away from a concrete pour.
Hesperia’s city manager said Monday’s fire is sad news for nearby residents who had lobbied hard for the bridge.
"And the sad part here is that (workers) were way ahead of schedule," City Manager Mike Podegracz said.
The freeway is Southern California's main connector to Las Vegas.