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Traffic is smooth despite 'Century Crunch' near LAX

Like 'Carmageddon' before it, LAX's 'Century Crunch' does little to disrupt traffic
Century Boulevard near LAX set to reopen Monday after weekend closures
LAX's 'Century Crunch' goes down smooth

Four weeks after being coined, the "Century Crunch" is nearly history, part of the city's growing lexicon of roadway headaches, and for all its poetic portentousness, the crunch was a breeze.

Starting Friday night, drivers detoured with ease around the closure of the intersection of Century and Aviation boulevards, one of the major thoroughfares to Los Angeles International Airport, and congestion on the surrounding surface streets was light.

For Joni Conterno, who lives in Westchester, the four-minute drive to the airport took less than 10 minutes Saturday morning.

"We're over-prepared," said Conterno, a volunteer for Boxer Rescue L.A. She was dropping off fellow volunteer Elana Blum and three rescue dogs destined for new homes in Vancouver. "We all live in our cars, so we're prepared for this."

Call it the Chicken Little syndrome, but thanks to social media alerts, 12,000 fliers mailed to businesses and residences surrounding LAX, and news organizations either interested in promoting a public message or hungry for a possible taste of inconvenience, drivers were prepared.

Following electronic signs, cones and arrows, they zigged then zagged onto Manchester Boulevard, the alternate route for getting to the airport. Instead of the stately palms lining the center median of Century Boulevard, Randy's 32-foot-diameter doughnut at the corner of La Cienega and Manchester heralded their approach to LAX.

Conterno recalled the 1984 Olympics, when "Don't drive!" was the mantra. The warnings worked then, she said.

"A little fear keeps a lot of people home," she said.

At the curb of Terminal 3, an automated female voice repeated over the loudspeaker: "Traffic entering and exiting LAX will be detoured so do expect delays."

Freddy Ayala, 30, of Torrance, was dropping off his family. They left early and got to the airport two hours before their flight.

"I expected a lot of traffic, but there was none at all," Ayala said.

A number of morning travelers in line for Southwest Airlines and JetBlue kiosks hadn't even heard of the lane closures.

And the 7,000 travel executives in town through Wednesday for the Global Business Travelers Assn. annual convention declined to comment on Twitter about the closures. Either they were accustomed to seeing the world's capitals turned into construction sites, or jet lag had suppressed any sense of irony.

Long considered the gateway to Los Angeles International Airport, Century Boulevard sees nearly 70,000 vehicles a day. An additional 20,000 use Aviation Boulevard. But at 9 p.m. Friday, the intersection went silent.

Then the jackhammering began.

Looking like prehistoric animals scavenging a wreck, pneumatic jackhammers rat-tat-tatted on a railroad bridge above the intersection. By 9 a.m. Saturday, the span had fallen into a pile of rubble and rebar. Skip-loaders temporarily ushered the mess into the old Wally Park, adjacent to the intersection, to be hauled at a later date to a vacant lot at the corner of Florence and La Brea avenues.

Three years after "Carmageddon," transportation agencies appreciate a well-turned catch-phrase for inspiring dread in local drivers. "Carmageddon" was followed by "Jamzilla" and "Ramp Jam."

According to Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Jose Ubaldo, the agency considered a number of possibilities. "Closure of the Century" was nixed. A version of jam was favored but had already been used. An alliterative approach was appreciated, and "Century Congestion" became "Century Crunch."

Before long, however, the Crunch will be forgotten, and at Century and Aviation boulevards will be an elevated light-rail station serving the Crenshaw Line. A few blocks north, at 96th Street, commuters will be able to change lines and travel directly to the airport.

LAX spokeswoman Mary Grady cautioned that there may be a surge in traffic Sunday night when many travelers are expected to return home.

For now, though, Metro authorities expect to open Century Boulevard by 6 a.m. Monday, in time for the morning commute.

hailey.branson@latimes.com
Twitter: @haileybranson

thomas.curwen@latimes.com
Twitter: @tcurwen

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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