A bridge in the desert is washed out, and I-10 closes

Annie Baxter Jul 21, 2015
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A bridge in the desert is washed out, and I-10 closes

Annie Baxter Jul 21, 2015
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A key conduit for moving goods east from ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California was choked off when heavy rains Sunday washed out part of a bridge in the desert between Los Angeles and Phoenix. Some officials in Riverside, California say the standing portion of the bridge could reopen soon, but it turns out that even when a bridge falls in the middle of nowhere, the costs rack up quickly. 

The bridge that collapsed was on a remote stretch of Interstate 10, far from any town. But it’s a key passageway for truckers hauling consumer goods from Asia out of California ports.

“I-10 is a major east-west corridor between California and certainly to Texas and other places in between,” says Rob Field, who manages  the economic development agency for Riverside County. He says state transportation officials are pledging to re-open the part of the bridge that’s still standing to two-way traffic, perhaps within a few days. But the longer the bridge is closed, the greater the economic pain.

“It’s hard to put a dollar value on it without drilling down, but we’re talking millions of dollars in impact, not hundreds of thousands,” Field says.

Every day about 7,000 trucks pass over the span, which crosses a dry wash. The head of the Arizona Trucking Association, Tony Bradley, says it’s no easy task to reroute them while the bridge is out of commission. He says the closest options might add as much as three hours to a trip, since there are essentially no local roads that trucks can use.

Since truckers get paid by the mile, that means higher fuel and labor costs: “You’re looking at an added $1.3 million a day just for the added miles,” Bradley says.

But even if the bridge reopens this week, John Benoit has concerns about bigger economic effects. He’s the 4th District Supervisor in Riverside County.

“We are very concerned that other bridges maybe are even in more serious condition than this one,” he says, “and that the entire infrastructure of our highway system is in arrears.”

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