Carmageddon II: Demolition a labor of love for one bridge engineer
For Michael Francis, Carmageddon is a labor of love three years in the making.
The 49-year-old Caltrans senior bridge engineer has been on the Sepulveda Pass Widening Project since its inception in summer 2009. Francis describes his job as "making sure they've crossed all the Ts and dotted all the I's for the project."
From an overlook south of the construction site Saturday afternoon, Francis watched chunks of concrete fall from a section of the Mulholland Drive bridge that is being demolished. The northbound side of the bridge will be widened as part of the $1-billion freeway improvement project that will also add a new 405 carpool lane.
"To finally see this milestone makes my hour-and-a-half drive every day seem worth it," said Francis, who commutes from Diamond Bar.
Even though he had staff at the construction site through the night and into the early morning, Francis stayed out himself past 1 a.m. Saturday and showed up again before 9 a.m.
He's invested years into this project and he doesn't want to miss a thing. The freeway, which is shut down between the 10 and 101 freeways this weekend, is scheduled to reopen Monday in time for morning rush hour.
"Designers, they draw stuff on paper. To me it's more rewarding that I can point to something and say, 'Hey, I was a part of that,'" Francis said, as he pointed to the partially demolished bridge.
He gets attached to all his projects, but Carmageddon is different.
"When you say you widened a bridge on the 605 and put a sound wall on it, people say, 'Meh, so what?'" Francis said. "When I say what I'm working on now, people know it."
But an adjustment period comes with the reward of a bigger project. Francis has had to get used to watching contractors do things he -- and his staff-- would normally do.
"Can you imagine yourself in the kitchen watching the pasta being cooked and thinking, 'That's not how I'd do it.' But then it comes out and it's edible, or in this case, usable," he said.
Francis is fascinated by the whole process, even the part he didn't directly oversee.
"Look at how that machine moves," Francis said staring at a hoe ram. "Its hand munches concrete."
As Francis walked back into the construction site -- a sea of neon yellow vests and white hard hats -- he stopped to say hello to MTA spokesman Marc Littman.
"If you're looking for an unsung hero, you're looking at him," Littman said pointing to Francis.
The engineer shook his head and smiled.
ALSO:Carmageddon II off to smooth start; bridge demolition well underway
--Marisa Gerber at the Sepulveda Pass
Photo: Heavy equipment, including large excavators, demolish part of the Mulholland Drive bridge on Saturday morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times