Felled Calif. ramp may reopen within 10 days

A section of highway lies burned and crumpled in Emeryville, Calif.
A section of highway lies burned and crumpled in Emeryville, Calif.Noah Berger / The Oakland Tribune via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A highway ramp shut down by the collapse of an overpass near the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge won't have to be rebuilt from scratch and could reopen within 10 days, the governor said Wednesday.

The ramp connecting two interstate highways was blocked Sunday morning when a burning tanker truck brought down the overpass. Crews finished clearing debris from the collapse Tuesday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the ramp connecting westbound Interstate 80 to southbound Interstate 880 could be fully open to traffic in as little as seven days and as many as 10.

"Progress on repairing the collapsed freeway connectors is moving at lightning speed," he said in a statement, after appearing at a news conference in Sacramento with state transportation officials.

Investigators found that the steel girders holding up the lower ramp had warped but remained structurally sound and could be straightened, California Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Haus said.

The overpass connecting eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 was destroyed by the tanker explosion, however, and will have to be replaced.

The state Transportation Department does not know how long it will take to complete the larger reconstruction of Interstate 580, which connects San Francisco to its eastern suburbs, said Director Will Kempton.

The Federal Highway Administration has agreed to pay for much of the repairs to both sections of freeway, Schwarzenegger said.

The state also will seek federal reimbursement for money it spent to make public transit more available and to patrol roadways during the repairs — already nearly $9 million.

No decision yet on driver
The agency has not decided whether it also will seek reimbursement from the owner of the tanker truck, Sabek Transportation, or driver James Mosqueda, Kempton said. The agency typically does so when drivers damage state highways, he said.

Traffic over the bridge into San Francisco on Wednesday morning was at its worst since the collapse, but rain and several minor accidents appeared largely at fault.

The gridlock feared by authorities has failed to materialize, but detours along Oakland streets have raised concern among residents about the increased traffic and pollution.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system reported record ridership Tuesday, with more than 375,000 passengers, up from an average weekday ridership of 340,000.

Mosqueda, 51, of Woodland, remained hospitalized in San Francisco in fair but stable condition.

No criminal charges or citations have been issued as a result of the accident. The California Highway Patrol said it is investigating the driver, the company that owned the truck and the vehicle's safety record.