California I-10 bridge collapse
Jul 20, 4:20 AM (ET)By ANDREW DALTON and TAMI ABDOLLAH
LOS ANGELES (AP) — All traffic along a major freeway connecting California and Arizona was blocked indefinitely when a bridge over a desert wash collapsed during heavy rain, and the roadway in the opposite direction suffered severe damage, authorities said.
The collapse on Interstate 10 in southeastern California Sunday afternoon left one driver injured, stranded numerous motorists and complicated travel for countless thousands for what officials warned could be a long time.
"Interstate 10 is closed completely and indefinitely," said Terri Kasinga, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.
The closure will force motorists seeking to use I-10 to travel between California and Arizona to go hundreds of miles out of their way to Interstate 8 to the south or Interstate 40 to the north.
Busy I-10 is the most direct route between the Los Angeles area and Phoenix. An average of more than 20,000 cars per day pass through the area that is shut down, according to federal highway statistics.
The bridge for eastbound traffic about 15 feet above the wash about 50 miles west of the Arizona state line gave way and ended up in the flooding water below, the California Highway Patrol said, blocking all traffic headed toward Arizona. One driver of a pickup truck that fell with the freeway had moderate injuries, officials said.
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A 48-year-old bridge that collapsed Sunday in a rain-swollen California desert earned an "A" rating just last year, federal records show.
Inspectors gave the eastbound portion of the Tex Wash Bridge a "sufficiency rating" of 91.5 out of 100, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The bridge also had one of the highest possible flood safety ratings, which means it should have withstood even the heaviest rainfall.
And then, on Sunday, more than 5 inches of rain fell in the open desert east of the Coachella Valley. Rushing water flooded into the wash beneath the bridge and ate away at the dirt around the foundations. Eventually, one end of the eastbound lanes cracked free of the highway and tumbled to the desert floor, cutting the primary route between Arizona and Southern California.
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