405 Open as 'Carmageddon II' Ends Ahead of Schedule

Highway and Road TransportationNew York City MTAAntonio VillaraigosaHerbalife Limited

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- 'Carmageddon II' came to an end ahead of schedule, with all lanes of the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass re-opened to traffic by midnight Sunday.

The two-day closure of the 10-mile stretch of the 405 was part of a $1-billion, four-year project to expand the notoriously congested freeway with a northbound carpool lane.

Crews were required to finish their work by a deadline of 5 a.m. on Monday morning, but they wrapped up with time to spare.

By early afternoon Sunday, the last pieces of the Mulholland Bridge had been removed.

Crews began hauling away 2,700 cubic yards of material, including 300 tons of steel, and a four-foot-thick pad of dirt dumped on the roadway to protect it from falling debris.

By nightfall, street sweepers were scouring the roadbed, and inspectors were looking for damage before giving final clearance for reopening.

Workers began removing barriers to the northbound 405 on-ramps between the 10 and 101 freeways around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, and the southbound lanes followed.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared the weekend "a resounding success," speaking at a press conference at "Camp Carmageddon" overlooking the freeway.

"People understood they needed to stay away from the area," Villaraigosa said. "They did what they needed to do to make sure it went as smoothly as it did."

Unlike last year's freeway closure, which finished 17 hours ahead of schedule, this time construction crews used most of their time to make as many improvements to the 405 as possible, officials said.

Work crews also contended with a considerably bigger job this time around.

The northern side of the Mulholland Bridge over the 405 that was demolished this weekend was longer than the southern side knocked down last year.

Crews had to demolish four concrete support structures -- two more than last year -- each encased with 3/4-inch steel to protect against earthquakes.

In addition, the demolition proceeded more cautiously than last time to ensure that raining chunks of concrete and steel didn't damage the new bridge under construction.

"We knew it was going to take longer because there was 30% more bridge to demo," said Mike Barbour, director of the 405 widening project for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"We didn't care as much about getting it done ahead of schedule. We thought it was more important to finish as much work as we can this weekend to save future closures."

To that end, transportation officials deployed extra crews along the Sepulveda Pass to fill potholes, trim trees and pave three southbound lanes.

By packing weeks of work into two days, the city saved an estimated $150,000, according to Villaraigosa.

For the most part, the work of Carmageddon II went smoothly, officials said.

There was a minor setback Saturday when a large section of the old bridge came crashing down.

No injuries were reported, but work had to stop so structural engineers could conduct and inspection.

They determined that the columns were sound and crews were able to continue working.

Most drivers heeded the warnings to stay away from the area, and traffic on detours through the Sepulveda Pass moved smoothly.

Adding to the mix on Sunday, the 13th annual Herbalife Triathlon Los Angeles required road closures from Venice to downtown Los Angeles.

Most daredevils and pranksters resisted the temptation to exploit the empty freeway -- apparently heeding the stern California Highway Patrol's warning of "zero tolerance."

At least seven citations were handed out for trespassing on the freeway: four to a group of inline skaters and three to pedestrians.

Two of them were newlyweds who were spotted around 3:40 a.m. on a closed on-ramp at Sunset Boulevard, the CHP said.

As to some of the benefits of Carmageddon, reports of crime dropped, as did air pollution, as people left their vehicles at home and set off on foot.

During last year's Carmageddon event, air quality in the area of the 405 closure improved more than 80 percent, according to a study at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The improvement was as short-lived as it was unexpected, however -- the effect was gone within a week.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Highway and Road TransportationNew York City MTAAntonio VillaraigosaHerbalife Limited