If you're wondering why officials chose the upcoming combined Valentine's Day/President's Day holiday weekend for "Jamzilla" — shutting down the 405 freeway for construction — you're not alone, and L.A. transportation officials took to Reddit Friday to defend the decision, among other things.
In Metro's Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), a typical question came from one Redditor who identified himself as greggors:
"This is anecdotal at best, but 2/14 is my anniversary and it seems to already be one of the worst traffic days in Los Angeles in the evening (esp from the westside toward the valley). Closing the Freeway in this way on a Friday night (busy already) compounded with Valentine's Day and a "getaway" weekend. I can't honestly see anything other than absolute gridlock in the city on that weekend. Why would you schedule it for a weekend that's already one of the worst traffic-wise in the city?"
Metro officials defended the decision:
"We needed an extended weekend to complete the work; we need 80 hours to complete the work, and that requires a three-day weekend. Also, the federal holiday on Monday means that fewer motorists should be accessing the freeway. We are working with agencies to do our best to complete this complex task as soon as we can."
Jamzilla — coined by transportation officials presumably to add some whimsy to the closures, following on "Carmageddon" — will affect the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass from Feb. 14 to 18, with the entire northbound freeway closed overnight and some lanes closed during the day, according to Metro.
“We’re calling it Jamzilla for the potential humongous traffic jams that could result as we close three of five lanes on the northbound 405 from Getty Center to Ventura Boulevard,” Dave Sotero, a spokesman for Metro, told KPCC.
Contrary to expectations of heavy traffic on the night of Valentine's Day or as people leave town for or return from the extended weekend, Sotero said that traffic is always lighter on a holiday Monday than during the regular work-day rush.
Sotero says that shutting the freeway during the extended weekend will save a lot of trouble down the road, preventing additional weekend closures. “The Jamzilla freeway lane reductions is one of those efforts to complete as much work as possible within a very specific period of time in order to eliminate several 55-hour weekend closures from the construction schedule that would be much more onerous to the public,” he says.
On Reddit on Friday, one motorist emailed, saying, "It seems like that's a more inconvenient time because of all the people trying to travel in/out of the city ."
"We needed an extended weekend to fit in all the work. Also, a holiday weekend means there should be considerably fewer motorists using the freeway, which means we will be inconveniencing fewer people."
To avoid being crushed by Jamzilla, Caltrans and Metro officials advise you to find another route, stay home or go someplace else. An estimated quarter of a million people are on that stretch of the freeway on a regular weekend day; officials hope to reduce that traffic load by two-thirds for the weekend.
And they feel your pain. “We understand the public has 405 fatigue," Sotero says. "We have 405 fatigue as well,” he adds, referring to the four-year-long, ongoing construction project.
Jamzilla ultimately involves adding a car pool lane to the northbound 405 between the 10 and the 101 freeways. “That is the last remaining gap of the HOV lane network on the entire 405 from Orange County to the north county area,” Sotero says. “It’s a critical missing link.”
The whole 405 improvement project is expected to be complete sometime this summer. That's something to celebrate.