An elevated Los Angeles freeway closed because of an arson fire earlier this month is expected to reopen ahead of Monday morning’s commute, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday.

The Nov. 11 blaze, fed by flammable materials stored under the roadway in violation of the company’s lease, closed a stretch of Interstate 10 near downtown for days, snarling traffic as repair crews worked around the clock to fix it. Officials initially said all lanes were expected to reopen by Tuesday, but moved it up to Monday after the progress.

Newsom said recent safety inspections showed the span was safe to start reopening starting Sunday evening and that the freeway would be “fully operational” before Monday morning’s rush hour.

“It wasn’t just speed that we were after. We wanted to make sure this thing was safe,” Newsom said at a news conference Sunday, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

There will be periodic closures in the coming weeks or months as repairs continue, officials said. An estimated 300,000 vehicles use the stretch of freeway daily, which runs east-west across the heart of the metropolis and connects with other major highways.

Padilla estimated the initial price tag for the repairs is $3 million, which was expected to be covered by federal funds.

State investigators repeatedly identified fire and safety hazards at a leased storage space under an elevated Los Angeles freeway before it burned in the fire, documents show.

The California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans, released the documents Friday. A day later, investigators said they identified a “person of interest” and released two photos in a “crime alert notification” on social media, seeking the public’s help in indentifying the person.

While investigators have not said how the fire was set, the blaze was fed by pallets, cars, construction materials, hand sanitizer and other items being stored under the freeway under a little-known program that now is under scrutiny.

This crime alert released Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 by Cal Fire Office of the State Fire Marshall Law Enforcement shows a “person of interest” in the Los Angeles freeway arson fire last week that closed the roadway for days. (CalFire via AP)

Newsom has said the state will reassess the practice of leasing land under roads to bring in money for mass transportation projects.

Apex Development Inc. has leased the land under I-10 since 2008. Although one condition of the contract stipulated that it not allow the storage of flammable or hazardous materials there, state inspectors have visited the site six times since early 2020 and flagged problematic conditions for years.

“This is a filthy unmaintained lease,” inspector Daryl Myatt wrote in a 2022 report following a surprise inspection that discovered solvents, oils, fuels and other items prohibited by the agreement. “This area has been utilized since the mid-1970s and looks like it.”

Owners of two of the companies that subleased the property said they also had warned of a fire danger and other hazards related to homeless people living under the freeway. Newsom previously said that while subleasing can be legal if the company received permission from state and federal regulators, Apex did not.

In September, state officials filed a lawsuit against Apex saying it owes $78,000 in unpaid rent. A hearing is scheduled next year.

The state’s most recent spot inspection, a little more than a month before the Nov. 11 fire, found “numerous lease violations,” but the documents released Friday didn’t elaborate.

Caltrans had “informed Apex Development of the need to address violations, especially those creating safety hazards,” the agency said in a statement.

Mainak D’Attaray, an attorney for Apex Development, said Wednesday that the company is not to blame for the fire, adding the company hasn’t been able to access the premises since October.”

Apex rented and improved the rundown yard and made substantial capital investments during the period that it had possession of the yard,” D’Attaray’s statement added. “Caltrans inspected the premises periodically, at least once a year, and CalTrans was fully aware of the sublessees and their operations. Even the State of California’s Fire Marshall inspected the premises.”

D’Attaray did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Izzy Gordon, a spokesperson for the governor, earlier this week disagreed with D’Attaray’s statement that Apex is not to blame. Gordon said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection — Cal Fire — believes it was caused by arson “in a fenced-off area that Apex was responsible for maintaining while they continued to assert rights under the lease.”