The earthquake that last January severed two 80-foot high bridges on the Golden State Freeway at Gavin Canyon created more than a commuter nightmare. U.S. Transportation Secretary Frederico Pena said that it also damaged the “commercial backbone of the state’s economy,” along which agricultural and manufactured products are moved between the California heartland and Los Angeles.
Antelope and Santa Clarita valley commuters, however, could be forgiven for not looking at so large a picture. For them, an already arduous drive turned into a nightmare. The story of one such person, who wound up spending eight hours, round-trip, behind the wheel gained international attention.
So it is with considerable pleasure that we note the work of those who helped rebuild the bridges a month ahead of schedule. It will mean an anticipated reopening of the southbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway by as early as Wednesday, and the hoped for reopening of the north-bound lanes a day later.
The unexpectedly early finish to the repair work does not quite rival the significance of the rapid completion of work on the Santa Monica Freeway, the nation’s most heavily traveled, but it comes close. The contractor, E.L. Yeager Construction Co. of Riverside, has earned its bonus.
Having said that, however, we must also note matters of related importance, and express a caveat of concern for those who are most anxious to return to their old commuting routine.
At some point, Southern Californians must do their share to support a more diverse transportation system that is not so vulnerable to disaster and not so damaging environmentally.
We refer to those who were forced into the mass transit options provided by expanded Metrolink commuter train service. Many have gone back to their cars at a time when they still should be leaving the driving to someone else.
Metrolink officials are doing their share to keep current riders and woo new ones by making track improvements that will allow the trains to shorten travel times by midsummer. That will trim a nearly 2 1/2-hour ride from the Antelope Valley to Los Angeles to just one hour and 48 minutes. Such progress is every bit as important as bringing the freeways back to life.