Carmageddon II: 405 Freeway reopens well before morning commute
"THANKS AGAIN LOS ANGELES."
Signs along the 5, 110 and 105 freeways flashed gratitude early Monday as commuters were reminded that the 405 Freeway had indeed reopened after the second Carmageddon, which ended ahead of schedule the night before.
A 10-mile stretch of the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways was closed over the weekend as crews demolished the northern span of the Mulholland Drive bridge, part of a $1-billion, four-year project to add a northbound carpool lane to the freeway. The closed section was opened to traffic by about 10 p.m. Sunday, seven hours ahead of schedule.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared the weekend "a resounding success," speaking in English and Spanish at a news conference at "Camp Carmageddon" overlooking the nation's busiest freeway. It was not just that work crews kept on schedule despite 100-degree heat and other challenges, he said, but that freeway-loving Southern Californians showed once again that they could handle the temporary blockage of a major artery without suffering a heart attack.
"People understood they needed to stay away from the area," Villaraigosa said. "They did what they needed to do to make sure it went as smoothly as it did."
Traffic flowed relatively smoothly throughout the Southland on Sunday as word of the closure saturated the airwaves and flashed on electronic freeway alert signs as far away as the Bay Area.
Most daredevils and free spirits resisted the temptation to exploit the empty freeway -- apparently heeding the stern California Highway Patrol warning of "zero tolerance" for pranksters. Authorities made no arrests, and by Sunday night had issued only seven citations: four to a group of inline skaters and three to pedestrians. Two of them were newlyweds.
"Their wedding gift was a citation," CHP Officer Rick Quintero said.
While motorists opted for alternate routes or alternate modes of transportation, or just stayed home, transportation officials deployed extra crews along the Sepulveda Pass to fill potholes, trim trees and pave three southbound lanes -- weeks of work squeezed into a two-day time frame.
Work crews also contended with a considerably bigger job. The northern span of the bridge demolished over the weekend was longer than the southern span knocked down last year, and the entire undertaking was more delicate because workers had to protect the newly built portion.
"This was the mother of all public works projects in Los Angeles," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the Sepulveda Pass. "This has not been easy."
-- Kenneth R. Weiss, Rick Rojas, Alexandra Zavis and Kate Mather
Photo: Commuters make their way along the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass on Monday morning. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times