U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg authorized the release of $3 million in emergency funding to help pay for repair work on the fire-damaged section of the I-10 freeway in Los Angeles on Wednesday, with the funds becoming a large part of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) repair effort.
A large section of the I-10 has remained closed following a large fire that occurred on Saturday. While the damage was initially thought to have been so bad that a total rebuild was needed, subsequent tests upgraded the situation to being repairable, with a reopening timeline being moved from “months” to “between 3 and 5 weeks” on Tuesday. Despite this, the cost of the job, due in part to crews being assigned to work on repairs 24/7, has remained high.
Both Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen subsequently petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation for repair funds to help offset state and local costs. Specifically, they asked for emergency funding through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). While the funds were expected to come soon, the Department of Transportation surprised Newsom and Bass on Wednesday by granting them the funding only days after being asked. As Secretary Buttigieg explained on Wednesday, the section of I-10 that was shutdown was deemed essential due to 300,000 people using the stretch each day, as well as it being vital for trucking and other commercial uses.
“This segment of I-10 is a vital corridor in our Interstate Highway System, and it’s important to hundreds of thousands of commuters as well as to America’s supply chains that it be quickly repaired,” said Buttigieg in a statement. “These federal emergency funds will help California launch this urgent repair work, and the Biden-Harris administration stands ready to provide further resources as necessary to address this issue quickly and safely.”
Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt added that “We know the I-10 corridor is a critical connection for both people and goods traveling in and around Los Angeles. The quick release funding we’re providing Caltrans is the first of many steps we are taking to help California get this key route open as soon as possible for the workers, residents and businesses that rely on this route every day.”
In response, Newsom praised the federal governments decision and said that the funding was essential to bring the I-10 fully back online by the end of the year.
“I want to thank the Biden-Harris Administration for their continued partnership to help California fix the 10. Fixing this freeway is critical to restoring the movements of people and goods in the third-largest metropolitan economy in the world,” said Newsom. “With President Biden’s support to rebuild critical infrastructure, California is leveraging an all-of-government approach — working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — to fix the 10 as quickly as possible so we can get LA’s traffic moving safely in December.”
Despite the praise, transportation experts told the Globe on Wednesday that such funding is expected in a situation like the I-10.
“This seems like everyone patting themselves on the back,” explained Mark Wiley, an engineer who specializes in highway structures, to the Globe. “The Federal Highway Administration always gives this sort of emergency funding out. Granted, it is usually not this quick, but considering the kind of traffic the 10 gets, it makes sense. It is a federal highway after all. Honestly, the federal government would have given this sort of money even without Newsom or Bass asking. This isn’t a case of politicians fighting hard to get money. This is the federal government simply doing their job in assisting an emergency.
“Newsom’s page has the headline ‘California Secures Quick Release Funding From Biden-Harris Administration.’ In reality, it should read “Government Department does job.” But I guess that isn’t a snappy headline.”
Repair work on the I-10 is expected to continue 24/7 for at least the next several weeks to make it at least partially open sometime in December.
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