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Emergency Contractors Crucial in Eight Day Rapid Fix of Fire-Damaged Los Angeles Freeway

The swift mobilization of emergency contractors, coupled with less severe fire damage than initially feared, allowed for the reopening of a 450-ft section of Interstate 10 in Los Angeles in just eight days last fall. Concerns initially arose about the need for demolition and replacement, a process that could have taken four to eight months.

Federal Highway Administration head Shailen Bhatt believed that the damaged section would have to be taken down after the first visual inspection. However, further assessment through samples taken from the highway deck, soffits, and columns revealed significantly less damage than anticipated. This reduced the estimated fix time to just eight weeks.

Additionally, a subsequent determination that the required shoring of bents was only half of the initial estimate further supported the expedited reopening. Stress gauges and instrumentation now confirm the stability of the section under live traffic, which handles around 300,000 vehicles daily.

Emergency contractors Griffith Co. and Security Paving played crucial roles in the rapid response. Griffith efficiently removed 154 truck loads of debris within 48 hours, operating 24/7 for seventy-two hours. Security Paving, starting with six hydraulic jacks, quickly secured an additional 30, developing a falsework plan within 10 hours and utilizing 870,000 lb of beams, posts, and steel to erect 54 falsework bents.

“It was all hands on deck,” said Brian Algren, Security Paving senior vice president, noting that personnel ramped up from 40 to 80 by the end of the first week. “We got the falsework up pretty quickly.” 

The installation of 58 steel casings to brace the columns, along with grouting or the use of self-consolidating concrete to patch them up, is underway. Subsequent tasks include the replacement of damaged concrete on the soffits. While two months of work are estimated for column repairs, the timeline for soffit repairs is less clear. However, Algren, anticipates completion of all work by June.

Despite the quick reopening of the section, an off-ramp took a bit longer. Economic concerns for nearby businesses were prioritized meaning the highway section came first. The cost of reopening the section amounted to about $6 million, with total repair estimates reaching up to $10 million. Caltrans, is expected to be fully reimbursed by the federal government. The selection of emergency contractors Griffith and Security Paving was based on their proximity and capacity to fulfill required roles, with an emphasis on engaging small, local, and disadvantaged businesses for specific tasks such as welding and addressing electrical systems.

Read full story on Engineering News-Record

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