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Carmageddon: 'Impressive start' to freeway project, official says

July 16, 2011 |  7:15 am

Click for more photos of the 405 Freeway closure With "Carmageddon" underway and 10 miles of the 405 Freeway closed to motorists, officials said demolition work on the Mulholland Drive bridge proceeded on schedule early Saturday morning.

Just before 5 a.m., the first floor of the Emergency Operations Center downtown — which had been filled with public information officers Friday afternoon — was mostly empty.

Television screens showed the demolition site and the red, yellow and white sparks flying from the bridge as work crews continued demolishing the south side of the Mulholland Drive bridge. Another screen showed local traffic patterns for the region that were almost entirely free-flowing.

PHOTOS: 'Carmageddon' closes the 405 Freeway

On the second floor of the center some two-dozen law enforcement officers ran the command post and kept a short incident list on a large screen in front of them. The mood in the command post was mostly collegial and relaxed, though officers stayed focused on their particular tasks and many eagerly awaited the impending 6 a.m. shift change that would allow them to get home and get some sleep.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said that so far, the freeway closure and demolition were going "terrific."

"The people of L.A. listened to the message and stayed out of the area" for the most part, Smith said. He said that the freeway closure went off on time — even a few minutes early — and that the demolition was on schedule.

Real-time traffic maps, Smith said, were "green and clean" by 8 p.m.

LAPD Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger told Smith that he was able to make it home to Long Beach on Friday afternoon in nearly record time.

Smith said there were really no incidents to speak of related to the closure except for a head-on traffic collision on Sepulveda Boulevard shortly after midnight that sent one person to the hospital with a broken collarbone and totaled a Porsche.

Some cyclists had also inched toward the closure area but left after seeing a slew of cars with the California Highway Patrol on lookout, he said.

There was also a group of some 100-150 cyclists that had congregated in Culver City early Saturday morning, which worried law enforcement, thinking they might try and bike in the closure area. But the cyclists quickly dispersed, Smith said.

Overall, Smith said there were no emergency calls throughout the night from the closure area.

At the construction site, sounds of crane-mounted jackhammers pierced the otherwise quiet morning hours Saturday as they pounded away at the concrete and workers with cutting torches severed rebar. Showers of sparks and debris — mostly chunks of concrete — fell on the highway, which workers had covered with a layer of dirt to protect the pavement.

Officials at the site confirmed that construction was running smoothly.

“It’s an impressive start to the work,” said Dave Sotero, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In all, officials said about 4,000 tons of concrete will be removed by early Monday morning as the south side of the bridge is torn down.

Caltrans is also using the shutdown to complete other maintenance work on the closed portion of the 405 Freeway. The work includes sealing cracks, repairing guardrails, landscaping, restriping pavement and fixing signs.

Though officials praised the progress thus far, they were quick to warn that traffic could still be congested throughout the weekend.

"If I was a betting man, I'd say Sepulveda is going to be quite clogged up," Smith said.


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-- Ari Bloomekatz at the EOC downtown and Dan Weikel at the Mulholland Drive bridge

Photo: Sparks fall as construction crews begin demolishing the south side of the Mulholland Bridge early Saturday morning. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times