California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that a busy stretch of Interstate 10 near Los Angeles' downtown will remain closed for three to five weeks.
Newsom, however, noted that the closure could have been much worse as there were fears the entire highway would have required a rebuild. Newsom said although parts of the highway were severely damaged, crews should be able to have the freeway rebuilt by Christmas.
"We are going to do everything in our power to move that into the more immediate future and not extend this into that five-week period," Newsom said.
Interstate 10 has remained closed since early Saturday morning after a fire was reported at a storage yard under the freeway. Authorities said Monday that they believe the fire was deliberately set.
Newsom said the fire caused 100 columns to become damaged, and nine or 10 of them are severely damaged.
Los Angeles Fire officials said the inferno started early Saturday under the freeway as a rubbish fire in a storage yard that had pallets, trailers and vehicles. It took about three hours for firefighters to contain the blaze. The fire was considered a major emergency, which involved 26 fire companies.
Newsom subsequently issued a state of emergency.
The governor said crews will work continuously until the highway reopens to do "surgical" repairs. He said the goal is to get four of the highway's five lanes open, but that some nighttime repair work will be needed after it reopens, noting there will be some periodic closures.
According to Newsom's office, 287,500 vehicles use the stretch of Interstate 10 on a daily basis.
Mayor Karen Bass said the fact the highway won't need to be rebuilt is "good news."
"It is still three to five weeks for the freeway not to be in operation," Bass said, adding that those who are able should telecommute or use public transportation.
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