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Carmageddon sequel gets a positive spin

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at a news conference along the 405 Freeway on Thursday about the freeway's closure during the last weekend in September. Other city, county, transportation and public safety officials are behind him.
(Patrick T. Fallon, Los Angeles Times)

Public officials kept to their game plan Thursday and moderated their message to motorists ahead of next month’s Carmageddon redux closure of the 405 Freeway, saying that focusing on the possibility of apocalyptic traffic is not the best way to keep drivers off the road.

“We can’t do what we did last time,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “So this time around, we’re not going to say, ‘Folks, look, we’re going to have the worst traffic ever.’ We all know that’s possible. What we’re going to say is ‘What about another day without a car in L.A.? What about Angelenos accepting the challenge to stay out of their car?’ ”

“Carmageddon” was the popular term for the 10-mile closure of the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass for a weekend last year as construction crews demolished the south side of the Mulholland Drive bridge, which spans the freeway. The work is part of a $1-billion project that includes adding a northbound carpool lane on the 405.

This fall’s sequel returns Sept. 29 and 30 when the same section between the 10 and 101 freeways will be fully closed for 53 hours so crews can demolish the other half of the bridge.

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Although many officials had predicted heavy traffic jams during last year’s closure, drivers largely heeded the warnings and stayed off the road, giving those who dared to drive surrounding freeways the kind of free-flowing ride often possible only in dreams.

While officials were thrilled with the outcome, they worry that motorists will look to last year’s closure and think they can take to the roads this time without any major issues.

“Even though we had an uneventful Carmageddon back in July of 2011, the only reason we had that is because the public stayed off the roads, not only the 405 and the roads leading to it, but throughout the region,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

“Stay home, stay in the neighborhood, stay off the freeways, whatever ... you do, don’t come near the 405 corridor,” Yaroslavsky said.

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This year, workers will begin closing freeway ramps along the route about 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28. They will start closing lanes at 10 p.m. so that the entire section will be shut down by midnight. The closure is scheduled to end by 5 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, with ramps and connectors opening an hour later.

Last year, crews were able to finish the work quickly and the freeway opened 17 hours early. But that probably won’t happen this time, officials said, because there’s more work to do and because the extended closure will be used as an opportunity to take on other jobs.

Mike Barbour, director of the 405 widening project for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said a “cushion” of eight hours is built into this closure’s schedule in case something goes wrong or crews need more time.

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

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