I-15 Bridge Collapse Started By Structural Fire

I-15 is back open following the Ranchero Road Bridge collapse. Road crews cleared debris that fell onto lanes during a fire that destroyed the bridge, leaving pieces of twisted metal and wood near the roadway.

The blaze erupted Monday afternoon and snarled traffic as it burned through the night. Firefighters struggled to battle flames in the bridge’s temporary wooden support structure as they contended with the danger of collapse, limited water supply and winds.

By morning, girders sagged onto the interstate below and crews were using heavy equipment to drag collapsed remnants out of lanes.

Despite the monumental mess, the California Department of Transportation district director, Basem Muallem, said he expected to have the northbound lanes open by Tuesday afternoon and the southbound side reopened by Wednesday morning.

Traffic was routed off the interstate onto local roads to bypass the bridge. Motorists were also advised to use two smaller state highways as alternate routes.

“We still have a lot of work to do to restore traffic,” cautioned Ray Wolfe, director of the San Bernardino Associated Governments.

The bridge was intended to carry Ranchero Road over the eight lanes of I-15 about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The overpass is being built at the northern foot of the approximately 4,200-foot Cajon Pass, one of the few major freeway routes crossing the east-west trending mountain ranges that separate the populous metropolitan areas of Southern California from the expanse of the Mojave and desert cities.

To the north, I-15 stretches 200 miles on to Las Vegas, as well as connecting with Interstate 40, which carries traffic to and from Arizona. To the south, below the other end of Cajon Pass, I-15 connects to a web of freeways serving millions of people from Los Angeles to San Diego.

High-desert commuters had been waiting years for the bridge, the Victor Valley Daily Press reported in January 2013, just before a groundbreaking ceremony for the $60 million, 2-year interchange project in the city of Hesperia.

The bridge had been expected to be completed in early 2015 and the fire is expected to be a 6-month setback, said Michelle Profant, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

The bridge’s temporary wooden structures — known as falsework — had been completed and the project was just a few days away from starting to pour concrete, Profant said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *