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Jamzilla: Northbound drivers on 405 encountering longer delays

Highway and Road TransportationPublic TransportationTravel AlertsLA MetroCalifornia Department of TransportationGetty Center

Northbound traffic continued to move steadily at midday Saturday on the 405 Freeway over the Sepulveda Pass, but motorists were encountering longer delays Saturday as they merged from five lanes to two lanes through the highway’s closure area that has been dubbed Jamzilla.

While things have gone well so far, transportation officials are still warning travelers to avoid the northbound 405 between Sunset and Ventura boulevards, where extensive paving and striping is being done for a new carpool lane.

“It’s been ‘so far so good’ but we don’t want people to get complacent,” said Marc Littman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We have a lot of work to do this weekend. If the public doesn’t stay away, we could have major traffic back-ups.”

Shortly before noon, motorists were experiencing delays of up to 20 minutes between West Los Angeles and just past Wilshire Boulevard where the 405 is reduced to two lanes. Delays of only five minutes were reported earlier Saturday.

Heavy traffic also is causing delays on the westbound I-10 between La Cienega Boulevard and the closed ramps to the 405. But Caltrans reports that traffic is moving normally on alternate routes, such as the 110, 710 and 5 freeways, as well as Sepulveda Boulevard that parallels the 405.

Transportation officials attribute the success so far to a monthlong effort to educate the public about the closures and the construction work using the media, websites and warning signs on local freeways.

“We’ve done a full-court press to get the information out there,” Littman said. “People are heeding the message, but they still need to keep away from the pass.”

Littman said the construction is proceeding on schedule and the lane closures should end at 6 a.m. Tuesday as planned. There was no indication that the highway could be opened ahead of schedule, he added.

Jamzilla is the name transportation officials have given the freeway closure. It recalls the full weekend closures of a stretch of the 405 in 2011 and 2012, to allow workers to demolish the Mulholland Bridge.

The first of those gave rise to the apocalyptic term Carmageddon, but the Southland survived the loss of drive time relatively unscathed.

For Presidents Day weekend, "we wanted to come up with a term that would be like Carmageddon in its ability to influence the public," said Dave Sotero, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is managing the $1.1-billion freeway-widening project.

This closure, he said, is similar to Carmageddon but affects only the northbound side. Three of five northbound lanes between Getty Center Drive and Ventura Boulevard will be closed during the day.

They are the three lanes closest to the freeway median, where workers will be paving. The remaining two lanes, Sotero emphasized, will not be able to accommodate the usual 405 traffic, nor will Sepulveda Boulevard be able to handle spillover during the day.

Southbound lanes will be unaffected during the day, but one or two lanes will probably be closed at night, Sotero said.

Metro and the California Department of Transportation are advising motorists to scope out alternate routes and to monitor traffic conditions via Twitter, Facebook, news reports and Metro's 405 project website.

The Getty Center, which is located in the hills immediately west of the 405, is advising visitors to expect congestion this weekend due to the partial lane closures between Getty Center Drive and Ventura Boulevard. As part of the project, the center’s entrance is being redesigned. However, it will be open throughout the construction.

One of the busiest highways in the nation, the 405 typically carries about 300,000 vehicles a day. In a bid to ease its notorious congestion, Metro and Caltrans in 2009 began preliminary work on the final 10-mile leg of a carpool lane through the pass.

In addition to completing the northbound "high-occupancy vehicle" link between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, the project called for building new on- and offramps, demolishing and rebuilding three bridges and adding miles of retaining and sound walls.

Officials initially forecast completion of the carpool lane by spring 2013. The time line was later nudged to December 2013, then to summer 2014.

Sotero said the project team picked Presidents Day weekend because it was the earliest three-day weekend that would enable Kiewit, the contractor, to complete the project this summer.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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