Caltrans Reopens I-5 With Temporary Bridge

<i> From Associated Press</i>

California’s main north-south route reopened Saturday, one week after floodwaters tore away a bridge, killing seven people whose cars plunged into a rain-swollen creek.

The temporary bridge on Interstate 5 opened at 4:45 a.m., said Al Vasquez of the California Highway Patrol.

Motorists were instructed to slow to 35 m.p.h. while driving on the two-lane bridge. Big rigs with oversize and overweight permit loads were detoured.


Alternating crews of nearly 100 workers worked day and night since March 12 to construct a temporary bridge made of 12 flatbed rail cars welded and clamped together.

The 200-mile stretch of freeway had been closed from Interstate 205 in San Joaquin County to the California 99 junction in Kern County. The state had been eager to build the temporary bridge because I-5 carries an average 25,000 vehicles a day.

The state Department of Transportation will offer construction bids to contractors this week to begin the process of building a permanent bridge. Heigo Orva, who is overseeing the project, said he hopes that the project will take less than six months.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pete Wilson toured flood-ravaged farmland Saturday and temporarily suspended the Endangered Species Act in disaster areas to help in the cleanup.

Wilson flew in a helicopter over the Salinas Valley and viewed wide swaths of silt-drenched farms.

By temporarily suspending the state’s Endangered Species Act, farmers and residents will be able to clean up and restore their properties without getting bogged down by permits, spokesman Sean Walsh said. Wilson has already temporarily waived air pollution laws to allow the burning of fallen timber, rotted produce and other debris.


Farmers said an Army Corps of Engineers prohibition against deepening channels, a failure to maintain levees, and laws protecting wildlife habitat helped push rivers over their banks.