All 5 Freeway Lanes Reopen After Fiery Tanker Crash

Monday morning marked the first weekday commute since a fiery tanker crash

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The damage from Saturday’s tanker fire on I-5 near Elysian Park may not be as extensive as first thought. Two lanes have reopened and more are expected to reopen on Tuesday. The closure has caused massive traffic jams on the 5 Freeway, even two days after the fiery crash. Conan Nolan reports from Glassell Park for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 15, 2013.

    Efforts to repair a portion of the 5 Freeway that was damaged in a weekend tanker fire near Dodger Stadium were ahead of schedule Monday afternoon, as Caltrans announced two northbound lanes had reopened earlier than expected.

    Caltrans officials opened two lanes just in time for Monday morning's commute, and by early Tuesday, they were able to successfuly reopen all lanes of both the 2 and 5 freeways .

    Tanker Fire Closures Slow Monday Drive

    [LA] Tanker Fire Closures Slow Monday Drive
    Traffic backed up early Monday, the first weekday since a tanker crash and fire in a tunnel at the 5 and 2 freeway interchange near Elysian Park. Annette Arreola reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Monday July 15, 2013.

    All lanes of the northbound 5 Freeway opened by midnight Tuesday morning, the southbound side of the 5 Freeway opened about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

    The transition road that connects the northbound 2 and 5 freeways, however, remained closed as of 4:20 a.m. Tuesday morning.

    Traffic Page: Maps

    "We want to make sure this road is 100 percent safe before we open it up to the public," Mike Miles, Caltrans District 7 director, said at a 4 p.m. news conference.

    The fiery Saturday morning crash happened in a tunnel on the Glendale (2) Freeway at the Golden State (5) Freeway interchange north of downtown Los Angeles. The fire was fueled by about 8,500 gallons of gas, firefighters said.

    The tunnel is expected to be partially closed for at least a week as Caltrans engineers examine the tunnel’s core to determine the extent of the damage, Miles said.

    Crews will first get the freeway "fully functioning" so drivers can use the roadway, but will continue making "permanent repairs" after the freeway reopens, Miles said, adding that those repairs likely will bring intermittent closures.

    Meanwhile, drivers tried to figure out alternatives routes around the closures as traffic officers directed drivers on nearby surface streets.

    "I know the area really well," said driver Laura Garvner. "So, I'm able to take the streets. I know the shortcuts."

    A portion of the southbound 5 Freeway at Fletcher Drive reopened early Monday. The southbound 2 Freeway connector to the southbound 5 Freeway and northbound 2 Freeway at Glendale Boulevard also reopened Monday morning.

    Motorists were advised to use alternate routes, including exits on Fletcher and Riverside drives. Authorities also recommended people use buses and commuter trains to get through the heavily traveled route which links the suburbs north of LA with downtown.

    Monday afternoon, Aram Sahakian, with LA DOT, said he was "pleasantly surprised" that commuters heeded warnings to stay away from the damaged freeway so as to mitigate traffic.

    Metro Gold Line passengers were told to expect increased parking demand because of the road closures.

    Some 300,000 motorists travel that stretch of 5 Freeway every day, officials said.

    The closures meant alternate routes for many fans who attended two weekend games at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers' next game at the stadium is scheduled for July 25 after the All-Star Game break and two series on the road.

    The tanker truck driver, identified as 52-year-old Jose Castanon of Bellflower, told authorities that he blew a tire before crashing and managed to get out of his truck, which exploded into flames, with only minor injuries.

    The fire damaged the tunnel and overpass.

    "It's going to require that we keep this tunnel closed for a very long time," said Patrick Chandler, of the California Department of Transportation.

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