By Mary O’KEEFE
They are calling it Carmageddon. Some businesses are preparing for the worst; others are ready for a big local boost. As if it wasn’t enough for Southern Californians to worry about mudslides, earthquakes and fires now their worst nightmare is about to happen — a portion of the 405 will be closed.
For 53 hours beginning July 15 and ending on July 18, a section of the 405 freeway will be closed. The ten miles of the northbound 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways, and the four miles of the southbound 405 freeway between the 101 freeway and the Getty Center Drive exit will be closed.
“Our key message is to plan ahead, avoid the area or stay home,” said Marc Littman, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) spokesman.
Although it seems like the message of Carmageddon may be an over-the-top warning, the fact is many vehicles travel that stretch of road.
“When you take 500,000 vehicles off the 405 they have to go somewhere,” Littman said.
Some of those motorists will filter onto every available roadway including the 210 and 2 freeways. The 210 and 2 freeways can be a link to the 5 and 10 freeways.
In preparation for the closing Metro and Metrolink have bolstered their planned transit services for the affected weekend. Valley residents are encouraged to park at available park and ride lots including North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Sepulveda.
Metro will provide free rides as well as additional bus service on the Metro Orange Line to spur transit trips between the San Fernando Valley and downtown L.A.
Law enforcement and transportation officials are informing the public in advance that if they do not have a critical need to be in or near the vicinity of the closure, they are being asked to avoid the area.
Littman has taken a glass half full approach to the closure, advising motorists to stay close to home.
“Get to know your neighbors and neighborhood businesses,” he said. “There are people planning closure parties.”
While some are concerned about low turnout for events and businesses are worried about drop off in traffic, some businesses are looking forward to keeping travelers nearby and are offering neighborhood specials.
“This could be a great opportunity for businesses,” he said.
The closure is part of the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project. Construction crews plan to demolish half the Mulholland Bridge in the Sepulveda Pass in order to build a new widened bridge and a carpool lane. The construction is part of a $1 billion capacity improvement project, a joint effort between Metro and the California Department of Transportation for the 405.
Whether or not this is another Y2K fear or a real Angeleno nightmare is up to who stays home and who decides they absolutely cannot stay off the freeway for 53 hours.