City News Service

Desert Stretch of 10 Freeway Closed Indefinitely

It's not immediately known how long it may take to repair and re-open the artery.

A contractor was awarded an emergency contract Monday to repair the 10 Freeway, which was closed indefinitely between California State Route 86 and the Arizona State Line after a 30-foot section of a bridge collapsed amid heavy rains in Desert Center east of Palm Springs.

Representatives from Granite Construction Inc. were still evaluating the work to be done late Monday and did not immediately have a timetable for getting the vital route reopened, Caltrans officials said.

"You've got one section (of the bridge) that's undermined and another section that's missing," Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Terri Kasinga told City News Service. "This could turn into something that's a long-term detour."

Officials said the westbound bridge could be reopened to traffic in both directions if the water didn't wash away too much soil.

The bridge failed Sunday afternoon, trapping truck driver Bryan Castor, after heavy rains caused flooding in the area, about 50 miles west of Blythe and the Arizona border.

Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:43 p.m. and began a cut-and-rescue operation on the eastbound side of the freeway near the Tex Wash, about a half-mile east of Eagle Mountain, according to Jennifer Fuhrman of the Riverside County Fire Department.

The truck driver, who suffered moderate injuries, was freed about 6:50 p.m. and taken to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, according to the California Highway Patrol. A passenger had earlier made it out of the vehicle.

The 10 Freeway is a transcontinental linkage that spans California to Florida.

Caltrans structural engineers were on the scene Monday morning to begin assessing the damage at the site of the collapse and other surrounding washes and structures along that section of the I-10, Kasinga said.

Motorists were advised to avoid I-10 travel and use detour routes such as Arizona Route 95 to Interstate 40 or Interstate 8 to State Route 111 to Route 86 to get around the closure, she said.

State Route 78 remained closed due to flooding. State Route 177 from Desert Center reopened about 2 a.m.

"But I would not advise any travel right now between Coachella and the Arizona state line," Kasinga said. "If you don't have to go, don't go."

Traffic backups were expected, Kasinga said, noting the interstate "is probably the biggest movement corridor in and out of Southern California."

"A lot of trucks come from the port (of Los Angeles) get on the 10 and go straight on out," she said.

Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman Marion Ashley said Monday that the board intends to declare a local state of emergency as a result of the collapse.

"We'll try to address this situation very quickly and efficiently," said Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman Marion Ashley. "Forty percent of the goods shipped throughout the country pass through that corridor, either by highway or rail. Now it's been cut in half."

Ashley said the board will be reviewing Tuesday how the interstate's indefinite closure may impact trade and transportation countywide. Emergency declarations often enable affected parties to apply for state and federal relief covering the period in which they're impacted.

"The closest thing I can compare it to is the Northridge earthquake," Ashley said. "Our governor at that time, Pete Wilson, declared a statewide emergency and exempted projects from environmental assessments so that the contractor could get in there and fix the quake-damaged interchanges in record time. We need something like that now."

Ashley said he was not prepared to "point the finger of blame" at state engineers or other authorities responsible for ensuring the integrity of the span that crumbled.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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