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Carmageddon: Travelers, commuters turn to trains amid 405 closure

July 16, 2011 | 10:16 am


The train saved the day on "Carmageddon" for many Santa Clarita residents who needed to travel downtown and beyond on Saturday and wanted to avoid getting stuck in traffic on the freeways.

At least a dozen people stood on the platform at the Santa Clarita Metrolink station waiting for the day’s first train on the Antelope Valley line to arrive at 7:30 a.m.

Photos: Carmageddon closes the 405 Freeway

Many of the commuters acknowledged that they would typically be in their cars this weekend morning — if it wasn't for fear of Carmageddon.

"That's exactly why we're here," said Jim Rothwell, who arrived at the platform just before 7 a.m. with his wife, Shirley, and 10-year-old son, Jeffrey — all of them dragging suitcases.

They had tickets for an Amtrak train out of Union Station which would ferry them on vacation up the California coast.

"We were going to drive down to Burbank and get the train from there, but we didn't want to get stuck in traffic," said Jim Rothwell.

The family arrived 30 minutes early for the Metrolink train and would have a two-hour grace period at Union Station before the departure of their Amtrak train. They acknowledged that having the option to take Metrolink was a relief, but it was still a little nerve-racking.

"I'm a little nervous about all the bags on a commuter train," said Jim Rothwell. "Other than that, it's pretty good."

Shirley Rothwell said she was surprised not to find more people thronging the platform. But her husband pointed out that it was still early morning, and it was a Saturday.

Brandon Silva, a regular Metrolink traveler, said being forced to use the train this weekend might make more people "realize the convenience of it."

Silva, 20, and his friend Jamie Oliphant, 18, had given themselves ample time to make it down to San Diego by 3:30 p.m. for "X Fest," a concert featuring several of their favorite bands.

Jamie's father Kevin was accompanying the pair on the train. His Saturday plans had changed because of Carmageddon.

"I was going to see friends in Santa Monica," said Kevin Oliphant. "I scratched that idea."

For Kathy Thomson it was a workday. In fact, Thomson was scheduled to be at her television and film industry job on Sunday as well. So she had devised a plan that would allow her to ride the train, but also have access to a car if necessary.

On Friday, she left her car at her offices in Burbank. That way, she could take the train, but her car would be easily available when she next needed it.

"That way, there's no unknown," Thomson said.

She never thought twice about taking the train, especially when she recalled how two weeks ago a big rig had jackknifed in the Newhall Pass and motorists were trapped in their cars for more than 45 minutes.

With Carmageddon, "there could be all kind of scenarios," Thomson said. "I just don't want to deal with it. The train has saved me in more ways than one."

Robert Mackay was also headed to his job at Glendale College, where he teaches and is a men's tennis coach. He needed to be at work both Saturday and Sunday so he planned to overnight at a friend’s home in Glendale on Saturday.

"I just don't want to have to fool around with my car on Sunday," said Mackay, who was accompanied by his daughter Rhiannon. "I'm just not going to make a half-hour trip a three-hour trip because of some kind of problem on the freeway."

Mackay said more than anything, opting to ride the train would be a welcome relief.

"I'm doing it for peace of mind," he said.


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-- Ann M. Simmons in Santa Clarita

Photo: Traffic control personnel block the southbound 405 onramp at Ventura Boulevard and Sherman Oaks Avenue on Friday evening in preparation for Carmageddon. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times