Jamzilla yielding light delays, but drivers still warned to stay away

Northbound traffic moved steadily on the 405 Freeway over Sepulveda Pass during the first day of "Jamzilla" on Saturday, but motorists encountered some delays as they merged from five lanes to two lanes through the highway's construction zone.

Although things went well, transportation officials are still warning travelers to avoid the northbound 405 between Sunset and Ventura boulevards, where extensive paving and striping is being done over the President's Day weekend 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 backups."

Traffic moved smoothly during the morning hours when motorists experienced delays of only a few minutes as the freeway narrowed to two lanes between Wilshire and Sunset boulevards. Before noon the delays increased to about 20 minutes, then declined to about 10 minutes by mid-afternoon.

Once motorists negotiated the stretch of merging traffic, normal travel speeds resumed, especially past the Mulholland Bridge and down the hill into the San Fernando Valley.

Heavy traffic also caused some delay on the westbound 10 Freeway between La Cienega Boulevard and the closed ramps to the 405. But the California Department of Transportation reported that traffic moved normally on alternative routes such as 110, 710 and 5 freeways as well as Sepulveda Boulevard parallel to the 405.

"It was well managed," said motorist John Berggren, who added that he was pleasantly surprised after hearing the warnings about lane closures as he drove up from San Diego.

John Barbieri of San Pedro said he took a chance when he headed north on the 405 on Saturday morning to take a load of furniture to his daughter in San Luis Obispo.

But after moving at a glacial pace on the Westside for a few minutes, Barbieri reached the two open lanes and quickly accelerated to 45 mph by the time he reached Getty Center Drive.

"I am glad I took the gamble," he said. "It would have taken much longer to go through downtown L.A."

Transportation officials attribute the success so far to a month-long effort to educate the public about the three days of lane closures using the news media, websites and warning signs along 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."

Transportation officials said the construction is proceeding on schedule and the highway should be fully opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday as planned. There is no indication at this time that the work is ahead of schedule, he added.

Jamzilla is the name transportation officials have given the freeway closure. It recalls the weekend closures of the entire 405 in 2011 and 2012, which gave workers time and space to demolish the Mulholland Bridge.

The first of those gave rise to the apocalyptic term "Carmageddon," considering that the 405 is one of the busiest highways in the nation with more than 300,000 vehicle trips day. The Southland, however, survived the loss of drive time relatively unscathed.

Dave Sotero, a spokesman for Metro, which is managing the $1.1-billion freeway-widening project, said the current closure is similar to the earlier closures but it affects only the northbound side. Three of five northbound lanes between Ventura and just south of Sunset will be closed during the day, while all five will be shut down at night.


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

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