(Photo: Reuters/ Eric Thayer)
“Carmageddon,” the feared traffic jam from the long-publicized weekend shutdown of the Los Angeles freeway, had a calm pass off and life was back to normal early Monday even as the county mayor termed it “Carmaheaven.”
“This weekend was more of a ‘Carmaheaven’ than a Carmageddon,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement as Interstate 405 reopened almost a full day ahead of schedule Sunday afternoon.
A 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway remained closed beginning Friday night and was scheduled to end early Monday to help build the last remaining gap of the I-405 carpool lane network, which involved tearing down of half of the Mulholland Drive bridge. But the work finished 17 hours before expected.
“Drivers led by California Highway Patrol officers honked their horns and waved from car windows as traffic started moving in all 10 lanes of the 405 just after noon Sunday,” The Associated Press reported.
A proud Villaraigosa thanked “all Angelenos for heeding the call and staying in their neighborhoods.” “Thanks to their patience and cooperation, the city’s roads and highways were practically empty,” he said, calling it a “mission accomplished.” Contractors and construction workers, who will now need to clear the 4,000 tons of rubble left behind, also won acclaim from the mayor.
“A lot is said about the fact that this is the car capital of the United States. Everybody has seen we can get out of our cars every once in a while and survive,” Villaraigosa said.
The Los Angeles Times said it was perhaps the greatest show of roadside spirit by Southern California drivers since easing traffic during the 1984 Olympics. “Although L.A. County has added nearly 2 million residents since then, the lack of problems demonstrated that authorities can temporarily sever a major transportation artery without giving the region a heart attack,” it said.
Months in advance, authorities had warned that the closure could lead to a major traffic chaos paralyzing much of Los Angeles and put up warning signs right up to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Many L.A. residents enjoyed the unusual weekend as they used public transport, walked, biked, or just stayed home. “It forced us to enjoy the day instead of jumping in the car and running errands,” the L.A. Times quoted Stephanie Leto, a Santa Monica resident, as saying.
L.A. residents may get more such weekends, as their mayor has more plans. “We want more projects like the I-405 carpool lanes to get started sooner and finished faster,” Villaraigosa writes on his blog.
“We’ve lobbied Congress for innovative transportation financing tools with a plan called America Fast Forward. Next week, I’m meeting with the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Transportation to ask for their support of my AFF plan which will help Los Angelos, and cities across the country, put nearly 1 million people to work now, rebuilding the roads, rail, and bridges of our future,” says his blog.
Even otherwise, the weekend shutdown paved the way for only half of the work for the carpool lane. There will be another closure in about 11 months to demolish the rest of the Mulholland Drive bridge.