'Century Crunch' warnings appear to be working

'Century Crunch' warnings appear to be working
Demolition crews work Saturday at knocking down a railroad bridge on Century Boulevard near the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport. (Hailey Branson-Potts / Los Angeles Times)

Joni Conterno has been through this before. There was "Carmageddon," "Jamzilla" and now the "Century Crunch" -- dire warnings of potentially epic traffic jams in Los Angeles due to major roadway construction projects.

"I've lived through them all," Conterno said, laughing. "We first experienced this in 1984 when the Olympics were in town and they said, 'Don't drive!'" The warnings worked then too, she said. "It was fabulous."


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

On Saturday, it appeared to be working again as Century and Aviation boulevards were shut down near the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport while workers demolished an old railroad bridge to make way for a new commuter rail station.

Transportation officials had warned drivers that the project, which is scheduled to continue throughout the weekend, could cause major traffic delays.

With a smile on her face, Conterno stood beside her SUV parked outside Terminal 2 at the airport as she watched traffic speed by.

A volunteer for Boxer Rescue LA, Conterno was dropping off a colleague and three boxers in dog carriers. Her colleague and the dogs were flying WestJet to Vancouver, Canada, where the canines will have new homes.

Conterno said she lives near the airport in Westchester and left a little early Saturday to be sure she got there in time. She said she made the trip in just under 10 minutes.

"We're over-prepared," she said. "We all live in our cars, so we're prepared for this. Maybe later it will get worse, but I hope not."

Meanwhile, demolition workers also seemed to be making good progress. They had knocked down the railroad bridge by about 9 a.m. and had already begun carting off the debris by early afternoon.

The Century Boulevard closure began at 9 p.m. Friday and is expected to last until 6 a.m. Monday. After this weekend's work, officials said, one lane of Century Boulevard will be closed in each direction for up to 16 months to allow for construction of the commuter rail station on the 8.5-mile Crenshaw light-rail line, set to open in 2019.

The Sepulveda Boulevard entrance to the airport will remain open this weekend, but travelers are urged to take public transit to the airport and budget extra time in case of traffic congestion.

Surface-street traffic east of LAX is being rerouted three miles around the intersection, with vehicles heading toward the airport sent north on La Cienega Boulevard, west on Manchester Boulevard and then south on Airport Boulevard to rejoin Century.

One-third of the nearly 80,000 vehicles that enter the LAX terminal area on a daily basis use Century Boulevard, said LAX spokeswoman Amanda Parsons.

LAX officials said they expect more than 200,000 passengers a day to pass through the airport this weekend for more than 1,700 flights. That is in addition to the 20,000 airport employees scheduled to work each day.

Metro officials recommend that passengers check traffic conditions using the 511 information line or before departing for LAX.

Twitter: @haileybranson