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Valley trucking firms adjust to California bridge outage

I-10 washout in eastern California desert slows travelers, supply chain


Every time there are wrecks, construction or weather delays affecting Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles, it affects the West Valley in some way.

This week, a major storm created the latter of such problems.
Trucking companies had to make adjustments after a flash flood washed out the part of I-10 Wednesday night near the small community of Desert Center, according to The Associated Press.

Desert Center is about 165 miles east of Los Angeles. It’s equal distance from Indio and the Arizona state line.

Trucking companies use I-10 as a main route between greater Los Angeles — especially the overseas shipping port in Long Beach — and the Valley’s many distribution centers and warehouses, along with other points across the U.S.

Christina Kinsman-Barnes is fleet services manager for Duncan and Son Lines Inc. The company staff had to scramble when between 50 and 75 company trucks suddenly were either stuck in traffic jams or were due to head into what was essentially a closed interstate.

“It impacted all of us at the company, but it impacted the drivers the most,” Kinsman-Barnes said. “We immediately told drivers in that area to go ahead and take their 10-hour breaks while we saw how to get them home.”

In a year when supply chain problems of several kinds are already leading the empty store shelves and other signs of transportation problems, Kinsman-Barnes doesn’t think end-user customers will notice the disruption.

“Even though some of our drivers need many more hours to get here, we doubt it will affect arrivals of goods by even one full day,” Kinsman-Barnes said.

She said Duncan and Sons drivers typically haul “C” or cargo containers for companies such as Costco and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has a large distribution center in Goodyear.

The Southwest U.S. has received several punishing monsoonal thunderstorms this summer. Wednesday’s storm not only took out traffic lanes in both directions along I-10, it also damaged some alternate route state highways in the area often used as detours.

Traffic in both directions was halted initially, but westbound lanes for motorists heading from Arizona to California reopened later.

All eastbound traffic was diverted until the California Department of Transportation managed to reopen one lane of the highway that was being repaired. CalTrans recommended people heading from Southern California use Interstates 8 or 40, which are major detours.

Kinsman-Barnes said most Duncan and Sons drivers in the area ended up taking the I-8 route to the south, through Yuma.
Photos posted by Caltrans showed water rushing through a deep gouge in the pavement of the highway. Flooding also affected other roads in the region, including State Routes 177, 78 and 62.

A flash flood in the same area in July 2015 washed out a bridge on the eastbound side of I-10 and eroded the ground under the westbound bridge. Kinsman-Barnes said the state highways provided ample relief at that time, only adding about 30 to 45 minutes to the route.

The interstate was closed for nearly a week in 2015 for repair of the westbound bridge, which then carried traffic on single lanes in each direction. The eastbound side did not reopen until September.

As of Friday afternoon, eastbound traffic on I-10 was still reduced to one lane for a 10-mile stretch, starting at the Corn Springs Road exit — about 9 miles east of the State Route 177 exit.

Flash floods earlier this summer badly damaged roads in Death Valley National Park, the Mojave National Preserve and on the southern side of Joshua Tree National Park. I-10 runs just south of Joshua Tree.

Officials called the Aug. 5 deluge in Death Valley historic. Hundreds of visitors were initially stranded by floodwaters and debris-covered roads. It took about two weeks for the park to reopen its most popular areas.

Harry Paxton, deputy director of the City of Goodyear's  Economic Development Department, said Goodyear had not received any information of delays businesses were experiencing.

"I did reach out to a few businesses, and a couple responded," Paxton said. "One had not experienced any delays due to the I-10 repairs near Desert Center. Another business said 'While a nuisance,  it's primarily affecting eastbound traffic, and our carriers are taking alternative routes in the interim.'"

City of Buckeye spokesperson Annie DeChance said it’s too early to tell if the shutdown is impacting local shipping or travel-centered businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

“It will depend on how long it will take for repairs, but I think they’re still assessing damage currently,” she said.

Kinsman-Barnes said Duncan and Sons is going to take the loss associated with paying its drivers to rest and then to drive the extra miles needed to get home safely.

“It’s more important to do what’s safest for the drivers,” she said.