$2 million in emergency relief funds for LA-area overpass

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Dec. 22 made $2 million in quick release emergency funds immediately available to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for the Paramount Boulevard overpass set ablaze by a fuel tanker explosion on State Route 60 in the Los Angeles area.

“The Obama Administration stands ready to provide emergency relief from the explosion that has caused enormous disruption to travelers and business and has required a major cleanup effort,” LaHood said in a press release from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). “We are making funds available right away to restore transportation as quickly as possible.”

SR 60 is a vital route for trucks moving freight between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to distribution centers and warehouses in the Inland Empire. SR 60 typically carries about 225,000 vehicles a day. The Paramount Boulevard overpass suffered extensive damage in the blaze on December 14, and Caltrans has already moved ahead with a partial demolition of the structure. Quick release emergency funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will go toward completing the demolition and starting the design for the new overpass.

“Emergency relief funds will help the speedy rebuilding of a missing section of highway, which has caused detour delays and more traffic congestion for everyone in the area,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez in the same written statement as LaHood. “When critical transportation links are broken, businesses and the economy pay the price.”

The damaged overpass has resulted in bottlenecks on Paramount Boulevard and restricted access to businesses, which are the primary source of revenue for the area.

A recent state of emergency declaration from California Gov. Jerry Brown allowed Caltrans to seek assistance from the federal government for the overpass. FHWA’s emergency relief program provides funds for the repair or reconstruction of roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events.