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Carmageddon II: Avoid the Area, Says Caltrans

With “Carmageddon II” just days away, Caltrans officials this week urged motorists not to get complacent over the success of last year’s San Diego (405) Freeway closure in the Sepulveda Pass, warning people to stay out of their cars unless absolutely necessary.

“We are 100 percent sure that this Carmageddon II is going to go off just as well as it did last year if we have the cooperation of the public,” Caltrans District 7 Director Mike Miles said. “If you absolutely have to drive, plan ahead. Take some extra water with you, take some provisions, take some food. Take your medications with you if you have to be out on the road because if you do get caught in a traffic jam, it could be for hours.”

Carmageddon II will occur this weekend, with some ramps along the 405 Freeway between the Santa Monica (10) and Ventura (101) freeways closing as early as 7 p.m. Friday. Lanes on the 405 will begin closing around 10 p.m. Friday, and the entire freeway stretch will be shut down by midnight.

The closure, which will enable crews to demolish the north half of the Mulholland Bridge over the freeway, is expected to continue until 5 a.m. Monday.

Sepulveda Boulevard will be available as an alternate route during the closure for local traffic only.

The demolition and reconstruction of the Mulholland bridge is part of the $1 billion Sepulveda Pass improvement project that is adding a 10-mile northbound carpool lane and making other upgrades along the route. The project is expected to be completed next year.

According to Caltrans, an average of 278,000 motorists drive the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass every day. That estimate is an average, so the actual number of cars that travel the typical weekend day is generally lower than a weekday, according to Caltrans.

Speaking at a news conference, Miles said that to avoid a traffic nightmare over the weekend, about two-thirds of the people who typically get on the 405 Freeway — the nation’s busiest — need to stay out of their cars during the closure.

Caltrans will have 30 additional portable electronic message signs on various freeways during the closure to provide up-to-date travel information to motorists. It will also have round-the-clock monitoring from its Los Angeles area Transportation Management Center in hopes of providing faster responses to emergencies that arise affecting freeway traffic.

“I-405 is still the nation’s busiest freeway,” according to K.N. Murthy, executive director of transit project delivery for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is overseeing the $1 billion 405 Freeway construction project.

“Other connecting L.A. freeways have their own congestion challenges on weekends,” Murthy said. “The closure is still in the geographically constrained Sepulveda Pass, where there are no immediate or effective alternate routes. That’s why we still need the public’s full and complete cooperation if this second closure operation is going to be as successful as the first.”

The first Carmageddon took place in July 2011, and motorists heeded the weeks of warnings to avoid the area, leaving many streets in and near the closure area practically abandoned for the weekend. The demolition work on the south side of the Mulholland bridge during that closure was completed ahead of schedule, and the freeway was reopened 17 hours early.

But that success has prompted some fears that motorists this year would be a little more complacent. Metro officials also warn that there likely won’t be an early finish to the work during Carmageddon II, because two sets of bridge columns must be removed, compared with one last year. The demolition work will also be more complicated because of inactive utility lines, according to Metro.