Carmageddon II: The Sequel: More Freeway Chaos Could Hit Los Angeles

Los Angeles: where even the construction projects sound like Hollywood blockbusters

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Reed Saxon / AP

A countdown clock running on a digital billboard on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles reminds motorists Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, to prepare and plan for the two-day closure of the Interstate 405 freeway over the Sepulveda Pass this coming weekend, Sept. 29-30.

It was one of the most over-hyped news stories of last year. Carmageddon – and its perils – was foretold by politicians, celebrities and neighborhood organizations, all warning Los Angeles residents of certain doom if they attempted to drive anywhere. The reason? The closure of a 10-mile stretch of freeway for a mere 53 hours. Well, get ready: It’s about to happen again.

So what’s the problem with closing one freeway for one weekend? Well, it happens to be the 405, the primary artery connecting Los Angeles’ Westside and the tony towns of the San Fernando Valley, which millions of Angelenos call home. In fact, it’s the most-traveled stretch of roadway in the nation, a ten-lane patch of asphalt that carries 374,000 cars each day. Even on weekends, when traffic is lighter, the stretch can carry 500,000 cars over the two-day span. And from midnight tonight until 6 a.m. Monday, that crucial roadway will be impassible.

(PHOTOS: Los Angeles Braces for Carmageddon)

It’s the same stretch that was closed last July, during the original Carmageddon, so that road crews could demolish the southbound side of the Mulholland Bridge. They’ve returned 14 months later — in other words, now — to take down the northbound side. It’s part of a $1 billion freeway improvement project, which can’t be completed until the bridge’s supports are taken down. The demolition project was split into two parts to mitigate the frustration and gridlock.

While there are alternate routes, the 405 freeway is by far the most direct route to the Valley. A number of canyon roads cut the same path, including Sepulveda Boulevard, but they’re slow, winding and congested even when the 405 is open, as UCLA Urban Planning Professor Brian D. Taylor told TIME last year. But Angelenos should be old hands at avoiding the closed stretch by now, right?

Well, that remains to be seen. Last year, thanks to warnings by city officials and local media — and a news blitz that included social media, national publications and even this publication — Carmageddon never materialized. The total gridlock some feared, stretching from the Mexico border all the way north to Bakersfield, never materialized. Construction crews even finished their work 17 hours ahead of schedule. In fact, as Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put it in a warning video about this weekend’s sequel, Carmageddon was more like “Carma-Heaven.” (ba-dum.) “We were successful [last year] because people cooperated,” L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re asking people to cooperate again.” Officials from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is overseeing the project, are optimistic that their warnings will be heeded.

But the worry is that this year’s Carmageddon could actually be worse than last year’s. Caltrans crews have 30 percent more work to do in the same 53-hour span. UCLA — which lies right along the freeway — has 41,000 students back in school, an issue that was of no concern last July. And frankly, after last year’s overblown hysteria, it’s hard to get people that worked up about it again. Doomsday scenarios have been discarded in favor of a more nuanced message. Now, asking Angelenos to stay out of their cars is being proposed as a challenge rather than a demand. “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?’” Villaraigosa told the Los Angeles Times. Even the traffic alert signs, which warned drivers last year to “EXPECT BIG DELAY” say this time around to simply “EXPECT DELAY.”

(MORE: Why Angelenos Love Their Cars)

Last year, JetBlue offered cross-city flights from Burbank to Long Beach, allowing travelers to simply fly over any potential delays. This year, companies are attempting to lure residents out of the city. Businesses in Palm Springs, Calif., a two-hour drive east, are offering a number of deals for those interested in helping decongest Los Angeles. Among the most clever is the “Comegedaroom” hotel package. “With public cooperation, [the traffic issue] will be a non-event,” County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Of course, the non-event of 2011 could still turn into the event of 2012. And if things go really badly, perhaps it’ll be the Hollywood blockbuster of 2016.

 

7 comments
tma_sierrahills
tma_sierrahills

In mass-migration-fueled ever-more-overpopulated America, ever more numerous and ever wider roads simply means ever more crowded will be the ever more numerous and ever wider roads. 

dashsolo03
dashsolo03

In honor of Carmageddon II, here is a music video!

"Can't Believe The 405!" is a funny spin on R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" about this fateful stretch of road.  Check it out at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Finally, a tune that Los Angelenos can proudly sing in their cars, if they don't already in their hearts. Please share if you like!

Godspeed, everyone!!  We're almost finished!

Collider
Collider

 The title is incorrect, it should be "Carmageddon: Reincarnation" :)

(available February 2013)

dashsolo03
dashsolo03

"Can't Believe The 405!" is a funny spin on R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" about this fateful stretch of road.  Check it out at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Finally, a tune that Los Angelenos can proudly sing in their cars, if they don't already in their hearts. Please share if you like!

Godspeed this weekend, everyone!!

Blue-eyed Gal
Blue-eyed Gal

It's mostly just an excuse for all the radio shows to play the old Godzilla shriek sound effect for nostalgia's sake once every hour:

"Get ready for... CARMAGEDDON "RAWWWRK!" 

harris_c_h_long
harris_c_h_long

My sympathies to the folks in LA who're going to get stuck with this, but at least construction demolition is a legitimate reason for a road closure... look what the presidential debate in Denver is going to do on Wednesday night - shut down one of the busiest sections of the biggest artery through town during rush hour on the one night a week everybody works.

I'd just like to thank the DOT (and CDOT) in advance by asking precisely to whom I should mail that turd sandwich.

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

It's not "cooperation," it's "avoidance."  BIG difference. 

We SoCali's are used to construction (because when is one of our highways NOT "under construction?") and we avoid it at all costs.