Brace yourself, L.A.: Carmageddon has begun
Promptly at 7 p.m. Friday, contract traffic workers in Day-Glo coveralls began systematically shutting down one turn lane after another at Ventura Boulevard and Sherman Oaks Avenue. Finally, they moved in and placed red-orange cones, traffic barricades and signs to block the onramp to the 405 Freeway.
And thus it began: "Carmageddon" -- the closure of 10 miles of the 405 freeway as part of a $1-billion widening project.
The early work wasn't a complete severing of one of the main transportation arteries that keep Los Angeles pulsing. That doesn't happen until midnight. Instead, it was a slow, systematic squeeze, one onramp at a time.
Meanwhile, the usual pool of Friday night traffic seemed to have long bled out of the Sepulveda Pass, as workers left their jobs early, hunkered down at home or fled the area entirely. The few remaining drivers zoomed at unusually rapid speed over the hill that divides the city's Westside from the San Fernando Valley.
Sepulveda Boulevard, which crisscrosses the freeway, was similarly drained of usual congestion. One driver complained of difficulty staying under the speed limit.
The closure of the onramp at Ventura and Sherman Oaks Avenue was watched by perhaps 100 party-goers who celebrated Carmageddon at a poolside party on the fourth floor of the Courtyard Marriott. Some of the revelers were wearing Caltrans costumes, offering an Only-in-L.A. moment when a network of freeways offers as much a common bond as it does corridors for transportation.
-- Myung Chun and Robert Gauthier alongside the 405 Freeway
Photo: Workers block the southbound 405 Freeway onramp at Ventura Boulevard and Sherman Oaks Avenue. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times