Miles Ahead of Schedule: 405 Freeway Reopens 17 Hours Early

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David McNew / Reuters

A sign thanks drivers on the 405 freeway as the road reopens ahead of schedule in Los Angeles, California July 17, 2011.

Even more shocking than a lack of traffic in L.A. this weekend – the work crews actually finished early.

The event once known as “Carmageddon” proved to be no apocalyptic event for Los Angeles. Minutes after noon on Sunday, the barriers were cleared, allowing Angelenos that braved the weekend’s potential traffic hassle to once again use the stretch of freeway.

Around 12:05 p.m. cars began trickling back onto the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass, a 10-mile stretch of roadway that was closed for a mere 36 hours, though crews had budgeted 53 hours for the work. In a gesture that seemed to thank the crew for their quick work, drivers honked their horns and waved from their cars as police led them down the reopened stretch of road.

(PHOTOS: The Eerily Closed 405)

The freeway had been shuttered to traffic since Friday just before midnight, allowing workers could demolish the Mulholland Bridge that runs above the roadway and prepare for other construction projects including widing the lanes and implementing a carpool lane. The section of the 405 is a crucial link between the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles’ Westside, leading Los Angeles officials to sound a warning for miles in all directions, for many weeks, alerting drivers of the closure. They feared that without advance notice, clueless drivers who descended upon the area would cause epic gridlock by flooding other roadways.

But, just as the construction work went better than authorities could have ever planned, so did the weekend traffic. In fact, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted the number of cars driving on Los Angeles roads dropped by a whopping two-thirds on Saturday. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joked about the situation, saying “I think everyone has realized that we can get out of our cars once in a while and survive.”

(MORE: Preventing Carmageddon By Staying Off the Roads)

The construction company would have faced massive fines amounting to $6,000 every 10 minutes they were late, but instead, they’ll be handsomely rewarded for finishing ahead of schedule. “We worked with the contractor to build in some incentives to get it done early,” project director Mike Barbour told the Los Angeles Times, clarifying that it wasn’t “a large number.”

Regardless, Angelenos dealt well with the slight inconvenience, and now the freeway is reopened many hours ahead of schedule. Let’s call that… car-ma.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

MORE: Why Is One Freeway Closure So Apocalyptic?

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