Monday, October 15, 2007

The I-5 Disaster Teaches Us The Real Truth: Los Angeles IS An Island

Life is an island...or so they say. After an insane weekend of non-stop news coverage of the horrific truck crash in the tunnel on LA's Interstate 5, transportation officials reopened the main southbound and northbound "automobile" lanes of Interstate 5 early this morning, sooner than expected. The truck tunnel that was the scene of Friday's deadly crash remained closed. And now we've discovered (like we didn't already know) that our sprawling city is actually an island and that if one of our major arteries goes down, all hell is going to break loose!

Congestion in the area was heavy and drivers could still expect a tough commute. The reopening of one of the area's main arterial roads came quicker than expected. Officials over the weekend initially said the freeway may remain closed for days. But in typical LA fashion, with our tendency to rebound always present, LA is back in action. But now there are many questions as to the limited "escape routes" here in the LA basin when disasters do happen.

Investigators have determined that 31 vehicles, including big rigs and one passenger vehicle, were involved in the crash 30 miles north of Los Angeles. Authorities said it killed two men and an infant and injured at least 10 people. The fire spread from vehicle to vehicle, sent flames shooting nearly 100 feet in the air outside the tunnel and reached temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees. The tunnel is a truck bypass that runs beneath eight lanes of I-5, the main West Coast interstate, linking Mexico and Canada. It is also a major route from Los Angeles to the city's northern suburbs.

State transit officials said they made progress over the weekend, installing two of five supports to hold up the tunnel. Contractors were working to put in the remaining three. Core samples are being drilled to determine the extent of the actual damage as the fire was so intense that the concrete actually fell off the walls. I'd say that it was a wee bit hot. Kind of like a large pizza oven!

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his typical "gotta get the headline" fashion, declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County, which will allow the state to deploy emergency workers and equipment and give aid to local government. It will also allow extra donuts and coffee for the already tired Caltrans workers. The acrid smell of burned oil and rubber lingered Sunday at the 550-foot tunnel. The roadbed and walls where charred black, and concrete had fallen away in places, exposing the structure's steel skeleton. The 1970s-built tunnel, with its long curve and darkness, has long been regarded by truckers as one of the most dangerous areas of the freeway.

In a statement, state transit authorities said the tunnel was safe as long as drivers were careful. Yeah right, careful. Now if we let Caltrans do the same work like they did the mobile home stuck on the 101 freeway, we should be back to normal by Christmas!