By Melissa MacBride, January 10, 2014
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A major freeway connector near downtown Los Angeles has reopened six months after a tanker truck crashed into a column and caught fire.
The 8,500 gallons of gasoline the truck was hauling caught fire in the Elysian Park area of Los Angeles on July 13. The intense heat from the fire caused extensive damage to the connector tunnel and the structural columns that support the 5 Freeway.
The flames reached the Los Angeles River and thick black smoke billowed out of storm drains.
"A lot of the pavement was badly damaged, basically cratered, so we took out about 2 1/2 feet of pavement, basically all of the pavement down to the dirt, and replaced it with brand new concrete," said Patrick Chandler of Caltrans.
From July to November, Caltrans engineers studied the damage and then mapped out the redesign. The old, charred tunnel was built in the 1960s.
Drivers will notice the newly reconstructed, upgraded connector is lighter and brighter as 200 LED lights line the tunnel.
"These lights are self-adjusting throughout the day. They're brand new and cost efficient, saving $50,000 per year," said Carrie Bowen of Caltrans.
The new connector features anti-graffiti paint. It won't prevent spray paint from sticking to the walls, but it will make it easier for the crews to clean up.
"When I think of the I-5, I think of North America because from Mexico to Vancouver, British Colombia this is the motherload, and this connector was so important for that and the impact on neighborhood streets," said L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge
The cost of the repairs and the initial emergency response total more than $16 million. The state will be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Emergency Relief Program.