A 10-mile stretch of the busiest freeway in the country closed Friday night for bridge demolition over the weekend, marking the beginning of "Carmageddon II," as it is known in Los Angeles.
The 53-hour closure allows crews to demolish the northern half of the Mulholland Bridge before 5 a.m. Monday. The demolition and reconstruction of the Mulholland Bridge is part of the $1 billion Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which includes a carpool lane and other upgrades to a stretch of the freeway that about 278,000 drivers travel each day. Completion of the project is expected next year.
The first Carmageddon weekend in July 2011 was a big success for Los Angeles and county transportation officials. Crews completed the work and the freeway reopened 17 hours early, netting the contractor a $300,000 bonus while Angelenos obeyed warnings to stay off the roads for the weekend.
This year, there is no bonus if the freeway opens early—just a penalty if it opens late. Crews will work around the clock to finish before a 5 a.m. Monday deadline. If the freeway is not reopened by then, the contractor faces heavy penalties—a $6,000 fine per lane for every 10 minutes past the deadline the lane is closed and a $60,000 per minute fine if all lanes stay closed past 53 hours, according to Dave Sotero, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
While publicity for the first Carmageddon was laced with warnings of gridlock, the campaign for the second closure was more about encouraging Angelenos to stay local and off the roads. Metro officials partnered with hundreds of LA businesses who are offering deals and specials to entice residents to walk, not drive, this weekend. Still, officials tried to send a clear message to bold drivers.
"Don't test the freeways. Don't get into your car," said Chris Ipsen, emergency preparedness coordinator for the project.
Though freeway traffic was heavy all over Los Angeles on Friday afternoon before the ramp and lane closures began, officials reported no major issues as the freeway lanes and ramps closed completely, just after midnight Saturday morning.
"Please heed the call to stay local," urged L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Patch is providing a live blog of the entire Carmageddon II weekend, as well as a Storify with colorful Tweets, news and photos from locals experiencing the 405 closure.
Caltrans will have 30 additional portable electronic message signs on various freeways during the closure to provide up-to-date information to motorists.