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2, 5 freeway connector damaged by fuel tanker fire reopens today

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The underpass connecting the northbound 2 Freeway to the northbound 5 Freeway in Elysian Valley just north of downtown is scheduled to reopen by noon Friday -- nearly six months after a gas tanker crashed and caught fire, severely damaging the tunnel's concrete and support columns.

The big rig crash in July sent flames shooting through the air and dumped 8,500 gallons of gasoline that sent what officials called a “burning river of fuel” down the L.A. River and nearby storm drains, according to officials with the California Department of Transportation.

Crews have been working around-the-clock to repair the damage caused by the fireball, which burned through nearly three inches of concrete in the 300-foot tunnel, exposing steel rebar and causing brittle chunks of concrete to fall from the walls.

PHOTOS: Tunnel connector repair work

The repairs, which cost an estimated $16.5 million, included hydraulically blasting away and replacing damaged concrete, repaving the roadway, and adding new concrete barriers and graffiti-resistant paint.

Caltrans officials initially expected the tunnel to reopen by Christmas.

Officials have planned a news conference at 9 a.m. Friday to mark the reopening of the connector.

Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said federal officials have also committed to reimbursing the state for the cost of the repairs under a federal emergency relief program for highways.

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

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