Is Los Angeles ready for 'Carmageddon'?

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A traffic signs alerts motorists on Interstate 405 of the shutdown one day before workers start demolishing the Mulholland Bridge on Interstate 405 at the Sepulveda Pass during the 11-mile shutdown of Interstate 405 from July 16-18 for 53 hours on July 14, 2011 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles city officials are advising residents to stay home or stay away from the area over the weekend fearing massive traffic jams of what has become known as 'Carmageddon.'

L.A. County Metro officials say they're ready for this weekend’s shutdown of the 405 Freeway between the 101 and 10 interchanges. Are the rest of us ready for "Carmageddon"? Metro spokesman Marc Littman offers his thoughts.

Littman worked on the Olympics in 1984. "The traffic was freeflowing for a couple weeks. It was great. But there's a lot more cars and people today than there was back then."

Littman says he doesn't know what's going to happen with the 405 closure this weekend. "If enough people stay in their neighborhoods, and stay off the road, get to know their families, patronize their local businesses, go see Harry Potter, we'll be OK. If people think 'Well, everybody else is going to stay off the road, but it's OK for me,' and everyone jams the freeways, then we've got problems."

Topanga Canyon, Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon may take the brunt of the traffic this weekend, but Littman says they just don't have the same capacity. "Anyone who thinks that you can go over the Pass, or go over Sepulveda, you're in for a rude surprise. I mean, just stay away from those canyon roads. Like Sepulveda narrows down to one lane. I mean, how are you going to handle 500,000 vehicles that normally go through that stretch of the 405 between the 10 and the 101 on those canyon roads? It ain't gonna happen. It's a prescription for gridlock."

Littman says those roads are intended for local access. "The best thing you can do is, if you have to drive, use the alternative freeway system. Or use public transportation."

Metro is offering free subway rides this weekend, as well as 27 bus lines, including the Orange line. Metrolink trains are also beefing up service on their Antelope Valley and Ventura lines, and they have a new $10 weekend pass.

"Use public transit if you have to get around, or like I said, stay in your neighborhood if at all possible, or stay home," says Littman.

Contractor Kiewit Infrastructure has a major incentive to finish on time so the 405 can open up Monday morning at 6 a.m. If they don't make it, they'll be charged $72,000 an hour. "It's like $6,000 for every 10 minutes for each side of the freeway, so that's $12,000 every 10 minutes" if they're late, says Littman.

"So, that's a strong incentive to finish," says Littman. "Kiewit's a great company. They actually built the original Mulholland Bridge back in 1959, and now they're called upon to tear it down." The bridge will look essentially the same way it does today once it's been rebuilt.

After the construction on the 405 is done at the end of five years of construction, "The whole freeway's going to be safer because the lanes are going to be standardized, we're going to have all these bridge improvements and on- and off-ramp improvements, plus an additional lane of capacity," says Littman.

Public officials have tried to make sure the public's aware of the closure, and Littman says it's worked. "You'd have to be on Pluto not to know that this is happening this weekend, [that] this could be an impact on the regional freeway system and the arterial streets."

Officials have also worked to make sure people coming in from out of town know what's going on. "We've been working with World Airports and L.A. Inc. I mean, the airlines, the tour operators, rental car companies, everybody's been putting out the word – the Auto Club. There's something like 65,000 people I think come into LAX alone on a typical Saturday or Sunday in mid-July."

Check out our most recent information on 405 shutdown information here.

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