When a 10-mile stretch of one of the nation’s busiest freeways was shut down for two days last summer in Los Angeles, many predicted traffic mayhem and dubbed the ominous closure Carmageddon.
But the horror forecasts didn’t pan out. Drivers seemed to heed the warnings and largely stayed off the roads. And a top transportation official said city traffic during that period was comparatively light.
So, fearing that motorists would be numb to the message this time around, it was with a bit of trepidation that officials announced Thursday that bridge demolition work is returning Sept. 29 and 30 and that the 405 Freeway will again be shut down between the 10 and 101 freeways for 53 hours.
“Last year, we proved that Angelenos far and wide could rise to the occasion and cooperate with authorities to turn Carmageddon into ‘Carmaheaven’ free of apocalyptic traffic congestion,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is also a board member of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “It was truly one of L.A.'s finest moments.... Do not become complacent.”
Metro Board Chairman and county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said in a news release that the closure would “surely” affect the nearly 250,000 motorists who travel the Sepulveda Pass each day on the weekend.
“Law enforcement, transportation and emergency response agencies strongly advise that county residents make plans in advance to use an alternate route or transit,” he said.
The first Carmageddon closure was last July, when construction crews demolished the south side of the Mulholland Drive bridge that crosses the 405. It was part of a larger $1-billion freeway improvement project that will add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane and is expected to be completed in 2013, probably in the summer or fall.
A 53-hour closure was expected then, but officials opened the freeway 17 hours early, saying there were no major problems with the construction work.
Crews will demolish the north side of the bridge during the September closure, but officials cautioned drivers not to expect the road to open early because the job is more difficult this time around.
“There’s a little bit more work involved,” said Mike Barbour, who is overseeing the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project for Metro. Barbour said that the north side of the bridge is wider than the south side and that part of the preparation includes moving several utility lines.
Metro officials also say the possibility of gridlock is increased in September because of “public apathy” resulting from the extensive outreach efforts that proved successful last year.
“More motorists may now be tempted to rejoin local roads and freeways, which has the potential to create the very traffic congestion and multi-hour delays transportation and law enforcement officials have warned about,” according to a Metro news release.