If you thought Carmageddon was bad, just wait for the "Ramp Jam." So warned Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at a press conference Friday morning about the impending ramp closures of the 405 Freeway at Wilshire Boulevard.
The first of the closures begins June 22, when the westbound Wilshire Boulevard on-ramp to the northbound 405 and the northbound 405 off-ramp to westbound Wilshire Boulevard will be closed for three months.
"Yes, you heard me right. Three months," Yaroslavsky told the group of journalists gathered for the conference at the corner of Sepulveda and Wilshire boulevards, where he introduced the new term "Ramp Jam" for the extended closures.
The other six on- and off-ramps at the intersection of the freeway will each also be closed over the next year for periods that could be as short as two weeks and even up to the same three months as this first closure.
"This interchange is where the nation's busiest boulevard meets the nation's busiest freeway," Yaroslavsky said. "The honest truth is we're going to have a while with some of the worst congestion we've seen in years."
Metro officials have been talking to neighborhood groups in the area for some months, and Yaroslavsky asked that motorists be aware of the people who live in the area as they plan their alternate routes.
"We do not recommend using local streets," Yaroslavsky said, commending the residents for their patience in dealing with all the closures and difficulties imposed by the 405 Freeway widening project.
He was joined by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl of Council District 11 in exhorting motorists to avoid the area, if possible, or to take steps to mitigate the congestion by adjusting work schedules, telecommuting, carpooling or taking public transportation.
"Patience, patience, patience," Rosendahl said. "We've always known that it's a virtue. Now, we have to practice it."
The closures are part of the larger project that will widen the 405 Freeway and add a car pool lane, explained Mike Barbour, the director of the project. The ramps have been a safety hazard for many years—Yaroslavsky referred to them as "accident magnets"—and widening the freeway provided a chance to fix the problems.
Each of the eight ramps will be demolished and rebuilt two at a time, with work expected to be completed in 2013. Area motorists are being asked to plan ahead and select detour routes in advance, to adjust their travel times to compensate for the extra congestion in the area and to share the ride, either in car pools or with public transportation as much as possible.