Some Saturday morning motorists manage to avoid 'Century Crunch'

Freddy Ayala, 30, had to drive his family to Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday morning. Their flight to Boston was scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

But the family was worried about "Century Crunch," the weekend closure of Century and Aviation boulevards near the entrance to the airport to allow for construction work to begin on a new commuter rail station. Drivers were warned that detours could cause delays.


So Ayala and his family left their Torrance home at 9 a.m., just in case. But they were surprised to find it only took them 15 minutes to reach the airport.

"I expected a lot of traffic, but there was none at all," Ayala said. "I expected it to take 45 minutes to an hour."

His wife, aunt and his mother -- who were making the trip together -- were laughing at him.

This morning, "my mom was pressuring me to leave," he said, laughing. "She was saying, 'Let's go! Let's go!'"

Meanwhile, traffic at some airport terminals appeared to be normal or even lighter than usual Saturday morning.

The closure began at 9 p.m. Friday and will last until 6 a.m. Monday. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last week released a video urging people to use public transit and avoid driving in the area.

"Avoid the area if you do not need to be there and, if you must, allow for extra travel time and use public transit," Garcetti said.

After this weekend's work, one lane of Century Boulevard will be closed in each direction for up to 16 months to allow for construction of the station on the 8.5-mile Crenshaw light-rail line, set to open in 2019.

The work required to remove the bridge this weekend "is not a lot but it's enough to screw everything up," said Kim Upton, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, during a tour of the site Monday.

The Sepulveda Boulevard entrance to the airport will remain open, 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 will be 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 expected 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.


Four excavators carrying high-compression chisels have already started to pound away at the approach to the bridge. In all, workers will remove 300,000 cubic yards of steel and concrete.

"It is one of the first big pieces of the project," said MTA project director Charles Beauvoir. "It is always good to see progress; we have been on paper for a while."
Here are some other alternatives LAX-bound drivers should consider:

--The Sepulveda Boulevard entrance/exit to the airport will remain open.

--Park in Parking Lot C at 96th Street and Sepulveda Boulevard and take a free shuttle to terminals, or wait for passengers at the Cellphone Waiting lot at 96th Street and Vicksburg Avenue.

--Consider a FlyAway bus from downtown L.A., Van Nuys, Westwood, the Expo/La Brea Metro and new service starting Tuesday in Santa Monica. One-way tickets cost $7 to $10, depending on where you get on.

--Take a bus to the LAX City Bus Center, where a short walk takes you to an airport shuttle; or take the Metro Green Line, get off at the LAX/Aviation stop and connect to the airport with a free shuttle bus.

Twitter: @haileybranson