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‘Carmageddon 2’ accelerates plan for LA freeway improvements

by Take Two®

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Carmageddon 2 kicks off Friday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. when crews will shut down ramps along the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. As part of the same project in July 2011, workers demolished the south side of Mulholland overpass on the 405 freeway. David McNew/Getty Images

We're one-day away from 'Carmageddon 2,' are you ready?

Around 7 p.m. tomorrow, crews will start shutting down ramps along the 405 freeway, northbound between the 10 and the 101, and southbound between the 101 and Getty Center Drive. Over the weekend, workers will demolish the north side of the Mulholland Bridge.

But as KPCC's Corey Moore reports, this weekend's work is just one small part of a much bigger project.

There’s been so much talk about ‘Carmageddon: the Sequel’ ... but we’re not just talking bridges here. Welcome to the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, a billion dollar plan to wipe out gridlock and spruce up the nation’s busiest highway.

RELATED: Click here to see more Carmageddon coverage

This stretch of the 405 is certainly due for a makeover — it was built about a half century ago, when there were millions fewer people living in, and driving around, the southland.

“It’s a great benefit to commuters, two more lanes to accommodate traffic and improving the capacity of on and off ramps,” said Metro spokesman Marc Littman, who called the undertaking a milestone during an interview with NBC4.

Most commuters would probably agree that you can’t add enough extra lanes to the 405 in the Sepulveda Pass. And the same goes for improving the area’s freeway ramps – especially the cluster of eight ramps at Wilshire Boulevard.

“Tens of thousands of freeway bound motorists travel here on a daily basis," said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Zev Yaroslavsky, as he stood near the congested Wilshire-405 interchange recently.

Yaroslavsky said the ramp work — some call it “Ramp Jam,” some call it “Rampture” — will help traffic flow and make getting on and off the 405 safer. Work started on the first two ramps in June, and officials don’t expect to finish all eight until spring 2013.

LA City Councilman Bill Rosendahl sits on the council’s transportation committee. He said people who travel through this interchange have to adjust to Ramp Jam.

“We have to carpool, we have to plan ahead, we have to put more time in our schedule," Rosendahl emphasized.

The Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project is a joint venture between Metro and Caltrans. The city of L.A., the state, and the federal government are jointly paying the billion-dollar bill.

So to review, we’re adding lanes to the 405, and we’re getting better on and off ramps. But wait, there’s more!

“I think this is one of the elements that is necessary to accomplish what we started to do which is adding the carpool lane from I-10 to 101," said Krishniah Murthy who oversees Metro’s construction projects.

Once the carpool lane extension is complete, the 70-mile straight shot along the 405, from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley, will be the longest carpool lane in the world.

“And so people who are traversing through the city of LA can choose the car pool lane and be out in a much quicker, faster way,” Murthy added.

Besides adding lanes, improving ramps, and extending the carpool lane, there is all of that bridge work. Project developers have revamped the Skirball Bridge and they just finished upgrading the Sunset Boulevard bridge, over the 405, after two years of work. The overpass — which reopened earlier this week — is 5-feet higher and 30-feet wider.

And finally there’s the work tearing down and rebuilding the Mulholland bridge — the operation that required last summer’s Carmageddon I, and the upcoming Carmageddon II. After this weekend’s demolition, it will take nearly a year to finish rebuilding the north side of the bridge.

Once it’s done, it will be wider and longer than the original.

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