Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Excedrin Headache' for Motorists in la Earthquake Damages Five Major Freeways

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Excedrin Headache' for Motorists in la Earthquake Damages Five Major Freeways

Article excerpt

The city that lives by the car suddenly has nowhere to go.

When the earthquake in Northridge struck before dawn, elevated interstate highways collapsed like a house of cards, disrupting arteries vital to the life of Los Angeles.

Parts of five major freeways that carry hundreds of thousands of commuters to work every day buckled or collapsed, and elsewhere structural damage to pillars forced authorities to announce more closures. Three state highways also were damaged and closed at several points.

"You're talking about millions and millions of vehicles and travelers that will be impacted," said Jim Drago, spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.

Caltrans said the effect of the closures was not immediately felt because many offices and businesses were closed for Martin Luther King Day, and thousands of other shocked residents simply did not bother to go to work.

"But tomorrow is going to be a nightmare, a real Excedrin headache," Drago said.

It will be several months, if not years, before all the freeways can be repaired, he said.

In a region that has largely snubbed mass transit in favor of the car, the quake's blow is vicious. Commuters already cope with routinely jammed freeways; now the fragile balance is undone.

Melissa Edwards said her usual half-hour freeway commute to work from the Castaic area south to the San Fernando Valley turned into a three-hour ordeal on surface streets.

"It's unbelievable, the things I've gone through," she said by telephone on the road. "Unbelievable detours because of fires, roads just completely torn up. . . . People are driving crazy, cutting people off."

In the worst highway collapse, at the intersection of the Interstate 5 Golden State and the Interstate 14 Antelope Valley Freeways, a motorcycle police officer on patrol was killed when the road collapsed and he was thrown to the street below. …

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