California Bridge Collapse May Delay Freight, Raise Shipping Costs – Wall Street Journal
The shutdown of a portion of an interstate highway between California and Arizona after a flash flood collapsed a bridge could raise shipping costs and delay deliveries for retailers and other shippers in the coming weeks.
The 100-mile stretch of the Interstate 10, which carries more than 25,000 cars and trucks daily—nearly a third of them commercial vehicles—was closed indefinitely after a deluge of water, mud and rocks flushed out supporting soil under one end of the bridge at Tex Wash, in Desert Center, Calif., about 40 miles west of the California-Arizona state line.
The freeway is a primary route into the country’s interior from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s largest hub for ocean container cargo. Trucked goods travel on I-10 through California’s Riverside County, part of the region known as the Inland Empire which stretches east from the Los Angeles Basin to the Arizona border and houses millions of square feet of warehouse space.
‘The bridge was healthy, happy and fine until the water hit it.’
“It’s warehoused here until it’s demanded—wherever they want it,” said John Husing, an economist who studies the Inland Empire region. “This is going to slow down that ability to get it there.”
The California Department of Transportation has advised drivers to use alternative east-west routes, including I-40 to the north—around Joshua Tree National Park—and I-8, which runs to the south along the Mexico-U.S. border. Caltrans also warned of continuing thunderstorms in the area this week.
Tony Bradley, president of the Arizona Trucking Association, said the association’s member companies have alerting customers to the delays and extra costs. Phoenix, one of the nation’s largest metro areas and about a day’s drive from the Southern California ports, is home to many trucking companies, large and small.
The current detours add as much as 100 extra miles to drivers’ routes, Mr. Bradley said, which will raise costs for those shippers that pay a set rate per mile plus surcharges for fuel. And the extra time means some drivers may meet their daily time limits before reaching their destination.
Mr. Bradley said he’s “anxious to see a timeline” for when the work will be complete, to “bring some stability back to the supply chain.”
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A smooth logistics system depends on working infrastructure, Mr. Husing said. “This obviously hurts the efficiency of the system.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said the bridge was “healthy, happy and fine until a wall of water hit it.” In an inspection earlier this year, the overpass received a 91.5 score out of 100 for structural integrity, Doug Hecox of the U.S. DOT said.
Caltrans officials said the agency has contracted with a repair company and engineers will be evaluating the damage and setting a schedule for the work in the coming days. In the meantime, the agency said Tuesday that it’s planning to reopen the freeway soon and reroute eastbound traffic—the side that collapsed—to the westbound side of the freeway, reducing both directions to one lane.
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