Carmageddon II: Good karma so far as motorists heed warnings
As of late Saturday afternoon, the region appeared to be averting a "carpocalyptic" meltdown as Angelenos boarded buses, mounted bicycles or otherwise steered clear of the 405 Freeway and key surface streets.
"Things are going extremely well just as they did last year,” said Bruce Gillman, a spokesman stationed at the project's media center south of downtown Los Angeles. “We want to thank the public for their cooperation, and we want to encourage people to shop locally and stay away from the construction site."
He added that transportation officials hoped things throughout the weekend would "continue going as well as they are going this morning."
In a replay of the first Carmageddon in July 2011, a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway is shut down this weekend so that workers can demolish a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge. The dismantling is part of a $1-billion project to add a new northbound carpool lane to the 405, a vital north-south route through the Westside. The 405 is expected to open in time for the Monday morning rush hour.
Throughout the region, restaurateurs, businesses and residents capitalized on the Carmageddon concept.
Outside Blue Dog Beer Tavern near the 405 in Sherman Oaks, a big, white banner touted the "Carmageddon Burger." Nearby, a Whole Foods Market was hosting a Carmageddon II pancake breakfast.
And a block away, a bright orange sign lured locals to a garage sale. Jill Sanders, her husband, Scott, and son Matthew were doing a brisk business as the closure helped provide a somewhat captive clientele.
But authorities voiced concern Saturday that large commercial trucks could muck up the works. Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department said there were reports of large commercial trucks using Sepulveda Boulevard to bypass the freeway closure.
That could pose problems because of a tunnel along that stretch as well as restrictions for height and weight.
"We absolutely cannot have that," Neiman said.
By late afternoon, there were heavy streams of traffic on surface streets near the 10 and the 101 freeway junctions. Dozens of cars sat idling at each leg of a four-way intersection in Culver City.
"Where are all of these cars coming from?" said Officer Arroyo, who declined to give her first name. "You would have thought they would have stayed home."
Arroyo, who was about nine hours into a 12-hour shift, said all of the city's traffic officers were required to work both Saturday and Sunday in order to control the overflow of traffic.
Despite droves of drivers pouring onto Sepulveda, there had yet to be a major backup or incident as of 3 p.m., Arroyo said.
"And we plan to keep it that way," she added.
Traffic was much lighter at the intersection of Venice Boulevard and Sepulveda, just one block south.
"This is about the normal amount of traffic," said Nate Garcia, who was pacing the intersection median with sweat dripping from his brow.
And he would know.
Garcia, who sells flowers to passing motorists at the intersection four days a week, said he's seen no bump in business thanks to the 405 shutdown.
"There are good days and there are rough days," said Garcia as he worked his way away from the intersection in a blue button-down shirt, khaki pants and baseball cap. "And so far, today has been nothing special."
Traffic conditions between the Westside and downtown face more complications Sunday, when a triathlon with a projected 2,500 participants will force the closures of portions of Venice Boulevard, Fairfax Avenue and other key streets.
The first closure of Venice Boulevard from Pacific Avenue to Fairfax will begin about 5 a.m. Sunday, said Jan Fambro, a spokeswoman for the Herbalife Triathlon Los Angeles. The race will start at Venice Beach about 7:15 a.m. Fambro said Venice Boulevard would probably reopen by 10 a.m.
--Martha Groves, Matt Stevens and Ari Bloomekatz
Photo: Heavy equipment, including large excavators, demolish part of the Mulholland Drive bridge on Saturday morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times