Copper wire thieves leave freeway drivers in the dark

Alex Graber of Montecito Heights drives frequently through the tangle of lanes where the 110 and  5 freeways meet near Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park.  But Graber said getting through this busy interchange has been made  more challenging since so many of the lights have gone dark and have stayed that way for the past year.  The darkened interchange bothered Graber enough to complain to authorities to get Caltrans to fix the lights. There was no response, Graber said by email:

For well over a year, 60 lights have been shut off all along these freeways at very dangerous transition points. I have contacted my councilman’s office several times and they don’t seem to be getting any response from Cal Trans. Think you’d see this on the West Side? Doubtful. Next time you drive this at night, check it out. It’s appalling.

Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler could not say how long the lights had been out at the interchange but agency officials blame copper wire thieves for the problem.  Starting this weekend, repairs will begin to get the lights back on.

Repairing the lights at the interchange was on Caltrans’ To-Do List and is among the numerous spots along area freeways where copper wire thieves have struck, plunging sections of roadway into darkness, Chandler said. “We know we do have wire theft going on” at the 110-5 interchange,  he said.  The thieves are able to yank out the copper wiring after breaking into freeway pull boxes to access the conduit.

Given current budget restrictions, it can take a while before freeway lights are repaired, he said. It’s also no simple task since freeway lanes have to be closed and crews can only work for five to six hours at a time during such closures. That’s why the work to restore the lights to the 110-5 interchange will take place gradually.

On Sunday morning, Caltrans will close the connector from the southbound 110 to the northbound 5 freeway to replace the stolen conduit and restore the lights, Chandler said.  Other minor repairs, such as filling cracks in the roadway, will be conducted at the same time.


  1. Thanks! i have complained to caltrans several times as well. i also mentioned the fact that trash and graffiti have been piling up. how come Central LA freeways get no where near the care as do OC and SD freeways? its not right. Our elected officials should be on this.

  2. I wonder how much more expensive it would be to convert the lights to solar-power. I know that in Florida, a town got a HUD grant to convert their street lamps to solar to reduce the downtime after hurricanes. It seems like that sort of conversion would reduce or eliminate the threat of copper thieves leaving dangerous sections of road in the dark.

    Repairing the lights without making such a change seems foolish, since there’s no reason copper thieves wouldn’t just steal the wires again.

  3. I drive this interchange every day, and noticed at the beginning of last week all the lights were ON in this stretch of freeway and was shocked because its normally very dark. It didnt last very long, within a few days it was back to dark…

    If this is the work of copper thief’s, they need to place some cameras or better security around these lights to prevent this from occurring.

  4. CalTrans sucks. Trash has been piling up throughout our central freeways and ramps all summer and everytime I try to request some work, I get silence. Where are the community service workers?

  5. Okay not one to stick up for CalTrans, but isn’t the trash actually the fault of the jerks who litter our freeways, roadways, etc.?

  6. Lisal….. I’m pretty sure you know the difference between whose fault it is and whose job it is to clean it up.

  7. Thanks for running this Eastsider! I have to ask though – how much $$$ did Cal Trans save by not having to power 60+ freeway lights for over a year? Certainly enough to make the “repairs”. (I am not entirely sure that I believe the wire theft explanation anyway.)

    Btw – after complaining numerous, numerous times I only received a response when I suggested that they were discriminating against lower income areas.

  8. The lights may have been off for one year at the 5/110 interchange, but further up the arroyo, the lights have been off in several areas for a good three years. The East side of the 110 is now illuminated, day and night, certainly between Ave. 43 and Ave. 52. And some stretches beyond. This makes up for the lights which have been out on the opposite side of the freeway for three years.

    Caltrans has other priorities, such as constructing new hi rise buildings for their office staff (Eagle Rock for instance).

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