SR-2 freeway connector to the northbound Golden State I-5 freeway

Officials walk the northbound Glendale SR-2 freeway connector to the northbound Golden State I-5 freeway in Echo Park that was completed and reopened by the California Department of Transportation on Friday, January 10, 2014. Known as the 2/5 Tanker Fire Connector Repair Project, it took six months for this section of the tunnel to reopen after the July 13, 2013 accident where a gasoline tanker flipped over and caught fire. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / January 10, 2014)

The underpass connecting the northbound 2 Freeway to the northbound 5 Freeway in Elysian Valley just north of downtown is scheduled to reopen by noon Friday -- nearly six months after a gas tanker crashed and caught fire, severely damaging the tunnel's concrete and support columns.

The big rig crash in July sent flames shooting through the air and dumped 8,500 gallons of gasoline that sent what officials called a “burning river of fuel” down the L.A. River and nearby storm drains, officials with the California Department of Transportation told the Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOS: Northbound Glendale (2) Freeway/Golden State (5) Freeway connector reopens

Crews have been working around-the-clock to repair the damage caused by the fireball, which burned through nearly three inches of concrete in the 300-foot tunnel, exposing steel rebar and causing brittle chunks of concrete to fall from the walls.

Caltrans officials initially expected the tunnel to reopen by Christmas.

Officials have planned a news conference at 9 a.m. Friday to mark the reopening of the connector.

Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said federal officials have also committed to reimbursing the state for the cost of the repairs under a federal emergency relief program for highways.

-- Christine Mai-Duc, christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

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