Bridge collapse closes key U.S. highway in California near Arizona

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2015 1:15 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A stretch of cross-country Interstate 10 will remain closed indefinitely in Southern California near the Arizona border after a bridge collapsed during a severe weekend storm, injuring a motorist, state transportation officials said on Monday.

The eastbound span of the bridge, carrying I-10 over a wash through the Coachella Valley, about 40 miles west of Arizona, gave way on Sunday afternoon, choking traffic along a major truck route, the California Department of Transportation said.

The westbound portion of the highway was closed as well because of heavy rains that had undermined the bridge's ground support, department spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said.

Several alternative routes through the desert area were also closed due to flash flooding, she said, forcing motorists to take lengthy detours that could add hours to their trips.

The department described the bypassed stretch of highway, which runs from California to Florida, as the key "last mile" for tractor-trailers hauling cargo to regional ports, warehouses and distribution centers, carrying some 27,000 vehicles a day.

There was no immediate estimate as to when the interstate would reopen, but the California Highway Patrol said the closure would be "long-term."

Images of the collapse published on social media showed a pickup truck dangling off the edge of the buckled section of bridge, which had cracked and tipped into the wash flowing with water below.

Kasinga said the driver of that truck was suffered "moderate" head injuries.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner from San Francisco; Editing by Steve Gorman and Susan Heavey)