Carmageddon, Gas-zilla, 405-enstein, Gridlock-apalooza — it’s just a road closure, but car-crazy Los Angeles is gripped in panic.
|A sign warns Los Angeles drivers that the Interstate 405 closing for bridge repairs will snag traffic. Doctors and nurses are even sleeping in hospitals instead of trying to navigate the snarls. (Getty Images Photo)
A 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 from Santa Monica through the Sepulveda Pass to the San Fernando Valley will be closed for bridge repair during the weekend, and car-loving Angelenos are being urged to stay home rather than brave traffic on surface streets.
The freeway is one of the heaviest trafficked in the United States, carrying half a million vehicles on a regular weekend. Drivers forced to take alternative routes are expected to clog other roads.
In true Hollywood style, actor Erik Estrada, who played a traffic cop on the TV show CHiPS in the ’70s and ’80s, put out a public service announcement warning drivers to stay home. Tom Hanks and Ashton Kutcher also are warning about chaos.
Concern that travel will be nearly impossible that doctors and nurses will bed down at hospitals rather than face long detours, and residents are being urged to stock up on food. Three helicopter firms have been hired to fly emergency patients to hospitals.
Jet Blue Airlines is even providing a service between Long Beach and Burbank, a 35-mile trip that will take 30 minutes. “Carmageddon, we’re so over it,” the ads said. All 600 of its $4 seats sold out in two hours. Amtrak has slashed prices by half between downtown LA and Burbank. Many bus rides will be free.
“The best thing is to stay home if you can, don't drive if you don't have to,” said Michael Miles of the California Department of Transportation. “Be prepared. Treat it like it's a disaster.”
The two-day shutdown is necessary to demolish one span of the Mulholland Bridge over the freeway as part of a $1 billion project to widen the freeway with an HOV lane. The road will be closed again on a weekend next year for the demolition of the bridge’s other span.
Officials are convinced all their warnings will be heeded. Huge predicted jams during the 1984 Olympics and a visit by Pope John Paul II three years later failed to materialize because drivers took advice to stay home.
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