The July 19 washout of the Tex Wash Bridge on Interstate 10 in California cost truckers five days of detours until the bridge was opened to one-lane traffic in each direction July 24.
CalTrans officials say traffic volumes on that section of I-10, between Palm Springs and Blythe, approach 27,000 vehicles a day.
“It’s a big thoroughfare, so the impact will be tremendous,” said Rudy Navarrete, director of the California Construction Trucking Association, Western Trucking Alliance and Coalition of American-Latino Truckers.
Navarrete said because of the remoteness of the area, some drivers were forced to go 70-80 miles out of their way. Drivers were forced to detour to Interstate 40 and Interstate 8 to get to their destinations.
Caltrans was able to do the repairs quickly thanks to a $4.9 million emergency contract with Granite Construction – and a little help from the federal government.
On Wednesday of last week, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in six counties affected by the storms that were spawned by the remnants of a tropical storm that slid north from the coast of Baja California. With that declaration, the U.S. Department of Transportation offered California $2 million in emergency funds.
R.J. Cervantes, director of legislative affairs for the California Trucking Assn., said about 8,000 truckers travel the route on a daily basis. Trucking companies heavily rely on Interstate 10 as the most direct route to move goods to and from the California ports.
“It's a hugely important corridor for commerce," said Tony Bradley, president and chief executive of the Arizona Trucking Assn., which has more than 300 member companies.
The American Transportation Research Institute said the daily operating cost for all of the trucks on this stretch is $670,400. But with the detours in place, it cost an additional $2.5 million a day.
Crews worked around the clock to repair storm damage on the westbound side of the bridge.
“I am proud of Caltrans and Granite Construction staff working together to repair and reopen I-10 in less than five days after a storm damage event of this magnitude. I also want to thank the public and those communities most impacted for their patience during this inconvenience,” said Interim District 8 Director John Bulinski.
Interstate 10 is a major goods movement route between California and Arizona. This large, arterial roadway system plays a key role in that it serves as a “last mile” link to regional ports, manufacturing companies or facilities, logistics terminals and warehouses, and West Coast distribution centers, according to Caltrans.
“About 27,000 drivers use this bridge each day, traveling between Arizona and California,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It is a critical piece of infrastructure for the people in both states, and DOT is committed to doing everything we can to help the area rebuild quickly and safely.”
Caltrans crews beefed up the westbound portion of the bridge, being used to re-route traffic from the eastbound portion of I-10 in the area roughly 48 miles from the Arizona border.
“We want to ensure that everyone in southern California has access to safe roads and safe bridges, so these resources will help speed repairs and ensure that travel can return to normal as soon as possible,” said Acting FHWA Administrator Gregory Nadeau.
The bridge collapse received national attention, coming at a time when transportation funding is being debated in the halls of Congress.
Sen Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was negotiating to finalize a long-term highway bill with Republican leaders, and used the new I-10 collapse to help argue the case for fast Senate action.
Boxer announced that the bridge was listed as functionally obsolete and carrying more traffic than it had been designed to carry.
"How many more bridges have to collapse before we come together and pass a 6-year, robust transportation bill?" she asked colleagues in floor remarks.