L.A. "Carmageddon" that never was ends early

Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:15pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman and Jason Kandel

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A key Los Angeles freeway closed for construction work reopened some 18 hours ahead of schedule on Sunday, bringing an early end to a much-hyped "Carmageddon" traffic crisis that never materialized, officials said.

"Mission accomplished," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proclaimed at a late-morning news conference, shortly before traffic on Interstate 405 resumed in both directions to cap an unprecedented 42-hour shutdown of America's busiest stretch of freeway.

The mayor said the early reopening would save about $400,000 in salary and other costs associated with the project.

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, widely credited with popularizing the phrase "Carmageddon," said a campaign urging motorists to stay off the roads in the region surrounding the closure also was a resounding success.

"Carmageddon, Schmarmageddon," he joked to reporters, then added: "Two-thirds of the people who normally drive the freeways of this area were not on the freeways this weekend ... and everybody can live to talk about it."

A 10-mile segment of the I-405 that ranks as the most heavily traveled section of freeway in the United States was shut down on Friday night to allow for demolition of half a bridge as part of a $1 billion freeway widening project.

The closure originally was scheduled to last until about 6 a.m. local time on Monday, a schedule that likely would have wreaked havoc on much of the city's morning commute.

But Villaraigosa said demolition work was completed early, allowing crews to reopen the I-405, starting with ramps and connector roads at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.   Continued...

<p>Cars pass through dust as the 405 freeway reopens ahead of schedule after the partial demolition of the Mulholland Drive bridge in Los Angeles, California July 17, 2011. REUTERS/David McNew</p>