Los Angeles faces final countdown to "Carmageddon"

Fri Jul 15, 2011 5:53pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles motorists on Friday faced a final countdown to "Carmageddon," the epic traffic jam expected as transit crews begin to close a key stretch of the 405 Freeway during the evening rush hour.

The California Highway Patrol said commuter traffic was normal for a Friday morning through the Sepulveda Pass -- the 405 section slated for the unprecedented weekend shutdown -- with lighter-than usual congestion compared to other weekdays.

"There is nothing out of the ordinary for the morning commute," said CHP officer Francisco Villalobos, a spokesman for the agency's Traffic Management Center. "People are, for lack of a better term, behaving out there."

But authorities said the situation will likely deteriorate once work crews start to block on-ramps and connectors to the 405 at 6 p.m. local time, with full closure of all traffic lanes slated to go into effect by midnight.

Plans call for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, to reopen the 405, including ramps and connectors, by 6 a.m. on Monday, Villalobos said.

So while authorities have publicized the closure as a 53-hour operation, traffic restrictions will actually run for as long as 60 hours in all.

The freeway shutdown will allow crews to demolish a bridge as part of a $1 billion freeway-widening project designed to add carpool lanes through the Sepulveda Pass.

The 10-mile section of freeway slated for closure is used by about 500,000 vehicles on a typical summer weekend, Metro said.   Continued...

<p>Traffic moves slowly on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, California July 14, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>