If you live in the roughly 50 Southern California communities sprinkled between Granada Hills and the South Bay, or anywhere west of La Cienega Boulevard in L.A., you are about to live through the worst traffic nightmare ever along the most nightmarish stretch of freeway in the U.S.
I'm talking about the massive work starting on the 405 Freeway between the Ventura Freeway (101) in Sherman Oaks, which Infoplease calls America's Worst Highway Bottleneck, and the Santa Monica Freeway (10), which Infoplease calls America's fifth-worst Highway Bottleneck.
In January and February, Caltrans and Metro say, this FUBAR of a freeway will see closures of "all lanes" on some nights, and of 27 off-ramps and on-ramps.
Yet here's what we were told today when we called Caltrans for the ugly details: "Call Metro. It's a Metro project."
The rubes at Metro didn't answer their 405 "Project Hotline." Instead, they left an endlessly ringing phone without voice mail, truly circa 1970s.
So here's the actual Metro 405 project "Hotline" number if you'd like to try yourself, and very best of luck to you:
Metro's Community Relations Office project "hotline" is (213) 922-3665. Today, Monday, December 28, is not a government holiday. Yet when we called, none of the three Community Relations officers or managers, Olga N. Arroyo, Lorena Yepez Hernandez or Yvette ZR Rapose, was answering.
Yet Metro was busy, busy, busy today. The Metro PR team today was heavily pushing to L.A. media outlets a fluffy piece about how people can take a new rail line to the Rose Parade.
The 405 widening, bridge-replacement and car pool project, they say, will last into 2013 (don't hold your breath). It is a co-project of Metro and Caltrans. Yet we're still waiting to hear from Metro or Caltrans about the actual days in January and February when "all lanes" of the 405 will shut overnight. This is an Interstate freeway folks, so how about some dates? And they also could not ID which of the Westside's and Valley's busiest off-ramps and on-ramps will be closed. Or when. Or how long.
Even without these painfully basic answers, we can make a prediction: for the next three years, the massive north-south local and interstate traffic that crams the 405 will bleed onto Sepulveda Boulevard and Beverly Glen, Coldwater and Laurel canyons, creating some of the worst congestion L.A. has seen.
Nobody is arguing that 405 upgrading isn't needed (although building carpool lanes in Southern California has not created "carpooling" that's even remotely, remotely, commensurate with the extreme cost and loss of space for regular traffic lanes).
But did you catch how loooong it took Caltrans to add the carpool lane and long-overdue sound walls to the southbound 405 from the Valley, over Sepulveda Pass, to the Westside?
Years and years. Now they will do the same on the northbound 405 between the Number One and Number Five worst bottlenecks in America. PLUS they will rebuild the key bridges that pass over the 405 at Skirball Center, Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard.
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Any predictions on how badly this is going to go?
The Number Five and Number One Bottleneck Intersections handle -- well, mishandle -- 296,000 and 318,000 vehicles per day, respectively. Now bring in Metro and Caltrans to not only build carpool lanes and sound walls between these two points, but have them muck around with several new bridges, 27 on-ramps and off-ramps, etc?
Should we move to Oregon until 2015? Cuz this ain't gonna get done in 2013.
But at the very least, the overpaid jerks who run these two huge government entities -- Caltrans and Metro -- should have detailed answers ready, and readily available, to the public. Now, not later.