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Reopening of Freeway Interchange Celebrated : Transportation: Workers reopen last remaining segment that collapsed in the Northridge quake.


NEWHALL — With television cameras, hand-held video recorders, reporters and scores of proud "parents" on hand to witness the event, the region's vast freeway network was reborn at exactly 11 a.m. Friday as workers reopened the last remaining interchange that collapsed in the Northridge earthquake.

A lone California Highway Patrol car, lights flashing, escorted the first three cars onto the connector from the southbound Golden State Freeway to the northbound Antelope Valley Freeway in northern Los Angeles County, culminating nine months of nonstop labor in the wake of the Jan. 17 temblor.

"This is an historic day," Gov. Pete Wilson said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony against a panorama of crisp blue skies and autumnal hills. "Los Angeles' freeways are back."

The restoration of the interchange was of more symbolic than real importance: Only 1,300 vehicles a day used the transition before the quake, compared to the 287,000 cars and trucks that travel the freeways it connects.

But its repair forms the final link in a chain of post-quake roadway projects that began almost as soon as the shaking stopped--reconstruction efforts that include the early reopening of the Santa Monica Freeway in April and the Golden State Freeway above Gavin Canyon in May.

"This is the last installment," Wilson said, backed by a small crescent of dark-suited local dignitaries and a larger half-circle of workers in bright orange vests and white hard hats.

To the jazzy strains of a small brass band courtesy of nearby Magic Mountain, officials opened the car lane on the connector Friday. The truck lane is scheduled to follow in a couple of weeks, Caltrans officials said.

The contractor, F.C.I. Constructors of San Diego, must still relocate a water main, remove a makeshift bunker and reseed slopes adjacent to the restored interchange, but those tasks should not interfere with traffic.

Caltrans will determine whether F.C.I. is eligible for a bonus once the work is fully complete. The firm's $13.2-million contract allows for an extra $20,000 every day the project is done early. Similar incentives led to multimillion-dollar bonuses on other repair projects, but such a huge amount is not likely in this case.

Restoring the final two transitions of the interchange--the segment opened Friday and the connector between the southbound Antelope Valley Freeway and the northbound Golden State Freeway, opened last week--entailed some potentially perilous work conditions.

Columns towered 138 feet above the floor of the Newhall Pass, taller than the 80-foot bridges above Gavin Canyon on the Golden State and seven times as high as the downed overpasses on the Santa Monica Freeway.


Work carried on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But there were no major accidents, project engineer Jay Steele said. Steele joined Wilson and a host of Caltrans workers in inscribing their names in a wet cement slab by the interchange, closure of which cost the region an estimated $126,000 a day in lost commerce and time.

For Wilson, the reopening afforded a pleasant, no-risk media and photo op just four days before the election. Addressing the 200 people gathered for the event, the governor touched on the same themes he has sounded at past freeway reopenings: the resilience of Angelenos, the role of his administration in cutting bureaucratic red tape to allow quick repair, his office's cooperation with federal agencies.

"We intend to stay in the fast lane to recovery," Wilson said.

Interchange Reopening On Friday, the final segment of the shattered Golden State-Antelope Valley freeway interchange was reopened, marking the complete recovery of the region's freeway system after the Northridge earthquake. Officials reopened the connector between the southbound Antelope Valley Freeway and the northbound Golden State. Another segment reopened last Saturday.

Some numbers related to the reconstruction of the two connectors: $13.2 million: Amount of contract. 112: Days to conclude. $20,000: Bonus for each day work is completed early. 4 million pounds: Steel used. 12,000 cubic yards: Concrete. 4,480 linear feet: Concrete pilings. 1.6 million pounds: Steel pipe. 4.7 million pounds: Steel beams. 138 feet: Tallest column. Source: Caltrans

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