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405 Freeway Closure Will Make July 16, 17 the 'Carmageddon' of Traffic Mayhem in Los Angeles

The real Rapture begins July 15 at midnight.
The real Rapture begins July 15 at midnight.
UCLA Today

On the first day of Carmageddon, cyclists, joggers (and one DUI suspect) braved the empty 405 freeway -- while the rest of L.A. stayed home. On the second day of Carmageddon, construction ended early and the 405 reopened. Wah-wah.

Countdown ends, epically: "Take Advantage of Overblown 405 Closure With Parties, Cheap Stuff Across L.A."

Countdown, Day 2: "FAQ (Along With All Your Not-So-Frequently Asked, But Equally Burning, Questions)"

Countdown, Day 3: "What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project."

Countdown, Day 4: "Fly Over Empty 405 Freeway on $400 Helicopter Tour, or $150 Air-Taxi Alternative." (Or, um, a $4 JetBlue flight. Jesus.)

Countdown, Day 5: "405 Closure Gets Memed With 'Hitler Finds Out' Viral Video, Talking Bears, Sweet Tees."

Also: Check the Carmageddon app, the official Carmageddon live chat and car-themed drink specials on the Westside.

Daily traffic in L.A. may be worst in the nation, but you ain't seen nothing yet.

Suddenly, just a month-and-a-half before the largest closure of the 405 since it became the Westside's clogged lifeline -- carrying about 281,000 cars per day -- L.A. transportation officials have decided to come out and warn the universe of this impending doom.

Not in time, unfortunately, to save thousands of pre-booked vacations from ruin. The world-famous Getty Center, for one...

... will be forced to shut down entirely on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, along with its regular Monday closure. And the lockout couldn't come at a worse time: Getty spokeswoman Melissa Abraham says that of the 1.2 million visitors the museum receives every year, mid-July is "one of our busiest weekends."

Sorry, tourists. Guess you'll have to settle for them street-rat scribbles at MOCA.

Oh wait -- MOCA's situated right along the 101, that narrow relic of a freeway destined to take on the hundreds of thousands of pissy, honky drivers displaced from their normal route by the 53-hour summer closure.

The 405 will be completely shut down in both directions between the 101 and 10 freeways -- an insanely busy 10-mile stretch -- beginning the night of Friday, July 15 and ending 5 a.m. the following Monday morning. [Update: Construction officially begins at midnight on Friday, but officials say on-ramps will begin closing at 7 p.m. Lanes will then start shutting down at 10 p.m.] CalTrans explains why:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will add a 10-mile HOV lane and improve supporting infrastructure such as ramps, bridges and sound walls on the San Diego Fwy. (I-405); while widening lanes from the Santa Monica Fwy. (I-10) to the Ventura Fwy. (US-101).

This project will reduce existing and forecasted traffic congestion on the I-405 and enhance traffic operations by adding freeway capacity in an area that experiences heavy congestion. In addition to these modifications, the project will improve both existing and future mobility and enhance safety throughout the corridor.

And don't even think about taking Sepulveda Boulevard, the 405's go-to surface-street alternative. "Sepulveda will be slammed," warns the Encino Neighborhood Council. "It will not be moveable."

Where not to be:


View Larger Map

Better yet, as L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is urging, just stay home for the potential "mother of all traffic jams."

"We'll be landlocked and isolated," San Fernando Valley resident Gerald Silver tells the LA Daily News today. "We're going to Ralphs early, stocking up and not leaving the house for two days."

Sadly, that's not an option for those who planned their summer tours of Los Angeles

over a month in advance (as your average non-backpacker/Euro bum tends to do). Instead of the usual hour-long commute between attractions, annoying yet tolerable (and so authentic!), mid-July visitors can expect apocalyptic traffic mayhem, dubbed Carmegeddon by KNX news radio, for their entire weekend stay. And the Getty, one of the city's biggest draws, is out of the postcard completely.

Abraham says Getty officials "really tried to notify people as soon as we knew" of the closure, but unless prospective tourists have been religiously checking the "Hours, Directions and Parking" tab on the museum's website, they're probably still in the dark.

(Lucky for Kate and Wills, the royal scheduler happened to choose the weekend prior for their Hollywood visit. Which also means... #RoyalTraffic from July 8 to July 10. Sigh. Might as well just go into hibernation next month.)

As for the rest of the city, a traffic expert on KNX predicts that the buildup on L.A.'s outlying canyon roads could become a real mess. He also confirmed that "the 101 will carry the burden" of the closure.

"We want to avoid talking about those canyon roads," Doug Failing, a Metro official, told the Daily News. "They are going to get so overloaded if people think they can take them, we want to encourage them not to."

Still, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa downplayed the drama in a press conference this morning, merely warning Angelenos and visitors to avoid the Westside on July 16 and 17.

Hm. It's of course possible that this will be a Los Angeles Olympics repeat. (In 1984, the incredible amount of publicity surrounding the event -- warning people to stay as far as possible from L.A. that weekend -- resulted in a 30 percent reduction in usual traffic.) But given the relative hush about the 405 closure so far, and the lack of a momentous occasion like the Olympics to push the word out, traffic is more than likely to transcend the Westside for a citywide Carmageddon.

The only good news: The Red Line subway from the Valley to Hollywood will be free of charge that weekend. (The Metro's bus fleet, on the other hand, will continue to charge. Thus continuing the grand tradition of working-class bus riders getting screwed in L.A.)

And to think -- CalTrans has known about this thing for months.

Updates to come.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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