Carmageddon: Tempers flare as 405 Freeway shuts down
Even before the clock ticked midnight -- the official start of a planned 53-hour closure of the 405 Freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways -- authorities had halted all traffic nearing the Mulholland Drive bridge.
The stoppage prompted honking from drivers in the few vehicles caught on the freeway between Skirball Center and Mulholland Drive. A couple of people exited their cars.
One person took another approach, driving backward and swerving around stopped traffic, alarming onlookers concerned that the driver might strike someone in the roadway. Instead, the car was able to make its way in reverse all the way off the highway.
Up until then, quiet progress had been made all night, with the freeway eerily quiet long before the midnight hour.
The shutdown of a 10-mile-stretch of a crucial Los Angeles artery between the San Fernando Valley and Westside is needed in order to allow construction crews to demolish the south side of the Mulholland bridge. On a normal summer weekend the 405 carries about 500,000 vehicles through the Sepulveda Pass.
Earlier in the day, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had addressed a crowded room of reporters with the ominous words: "The day is upon us."
"We've been stressing to the residents of Los Angeles for three months now: Los Angeles has to plan ahead, we hope you will heed our advice," Villaraigosa said. "It's really going to depend on you. A lot of talk about 'Carmageddon,' and I expect, because of the unprecedented effort ... we believe this will go very, very smoothly, but it does depend on you."
With the freeway closed to the public, workers plan to batter away at the southern half of the Mulholland Drive bridge and remove some 4,000 tons of concrete -- part of a larger, $1-billion freeway improvement project that includes adding a northbound carpool lane.
If all goes as planned, the 405 should be open again in time for the Monday morning commute.
-- Irfan Khan, Ari Bloomekatz and Dan Weikel
Photo: A crew closes the Skirball Center Drive onramp to the northbound 405 Freeway in preparation for the freeway's closure. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times