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Carmageddon: 405 Freeway should reopen by noon, mayor says

July 17, 2011 | 11:45 am

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The much-anticipated weekend closure of the 405 Freeway -- dubbed Carmageddon -- is expected to be over by noon Sunday, hours ahead of schedule.

The closure of the 10-mile stretch of freeway, which began at midnight Friday night, had been expected to last until 5 a.m. Monday.

On Sunday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appeared near the freeway construction site at the Sepulveda Pass to announce that the freeway’s imminent reopening, about 17 hours early.

PHOTOS: Carmageddon closes the 405 Freeway

“This has worked because the people of L.A. cooperated,” Villaraigosa said. Villaraigosa was accompanied by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Police Chief Charlie Beck, City Councilman Tom LaBonge and Metro Transportation Authority Chief Executive Art Leahy. Yaroslavsky has been credited with coining the term "Carmageddon."

The shortened closure "goes to show what we all can do when we get together for a common cause," Villaraigosa said.

“A lot of people in Los Angeles have learned you can get along without taking long rides in your car on the weekend,” he said, adding, “we avoided a traffic nightmare.”

Beck said no major incidents were reported during the closure of the 10-mile stretch of freeway.

Villaraigosa credited contractors with completing work ahead of schedule. By finishing early, the project was saved the $700,000 cost of an added 12-hour shift, the mayor said.

Of that money, $300,000 was promised to contractors as an incentive to finish early, he said. There was also a powerful disincentive for contractors to delay: Had they finished late, they would have been docked $6,000 every 10 minutes for each side of the freeway that was still closed.

The mayor said the 53-hour timetable for the project was agreed upon by contractors, transportation and public safety officials. Villaraigosa thanked Los Angeles residents for heeding public officials’ call to stay off area freeways.

“They walked, they biked, they took a bus. They heard us loud and clear and they answered the call,” he said.

He said the closure, which has drawn national attention, proves Angelenos can get around without four wheels. “A lot is said about the fact that this is the car capitol of the United States,” he said. “Everybody has seen we can get out of our cars every once in a while and survive.”


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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announces the 405 Freeway’s reopening from a vantage point overlooking the work site. Credit: Allen J. Schaben