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LA Officials Warn Of Traffic ‘Nightmare’ During July 405 Freeway Closure

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, county supervisors and other transportation officials warned Angelenos Monday to stay off the roads when a massive construction project is scheduled to close the San Diego (405) Freeway to traffic in mid-July.

“Plan ahead, avoid the area, or stay home that weekend,” the mayor said. “Eliminate all unnecessary auto trips and do your part to help reduce congestion on the region’s freeway network and major arterials.”

Villaraigosa and other officials, including county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, took part in a news conference as part of a media blitz in hopes of minimizing the effects of the closure and to publicize alternatives for necessary travel that weekend.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks Reports

Metro and Caltrans need to close the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass starting the night of July 15 to demolish part of the landmark Mulholland bridge that stands in the way of a $1.3 billion widening project. The closure is scheduled to take 53 hours, and officials plan to re-open the highway at 5 a.m. on Monday, July 18.

Free subway rides will be offered on the Red Line subway under the Hollywood Hills, according to Metro officials.

Closure of the busiest north-south artery in Los Angeles for an entire weekend is expected to create massive traffic problems north and south of the Hollywood Hills, which bifurcate the city.

Major stress is expected on other freeways, particularly near Dodger Stadium and in the Studio City area. Two-lane routes across the hills, like Topanga, Benedict and Laurel canyons, are also expected to be jammed.

And because the closure will extend as far south as the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, major jams can be expected on the Westside, including Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and even Malibu.

“This project should probably be renamed the nightmare on the 405. Everyone is gonna be impacted,” said Metro board member Richard Katz. “Think of China and what you’ve seen on TV where they have nine-day-long traffic closures on their freeways. It’s gonna be like that for two days.”

But officials are painting the project as short-term pain for a long- term gain.

“The I-405 widening project will provide commuters with a continuous carpool lane from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley, saving them 20 minutes on their daily commute,” Villaraigosa said.

The project will also include improvements to better protect the highway from earthquakes, according to Metro.

The transportation authority plans to run extra buses on major east-west streets, like Ventura, Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards. Although regular fares will be collected on buses, they will connect to the free Red Line trains for access across the mountains that separate the San Fernando Valley from Hollywood and the rest of L.A.

Sepulveda Boulevard, which runs through the construction zone, will be reserved for residents of the immediate Sepulveda Pass area only.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky predicts “the potential of the mother of all traffic jams” and said anyone who thinks they know a shortcut across the mountains should “save your gas.”

“I know virtually every shortcut in these parts, and none will work because of the sheer volume of vehicles being taken off the freeway,” he said in his blog.

The news conference today was the first of several Metro has planned over the next month. Spokesman Marc Littman has said the communication campaign over the coming weeks will include outreach to more than 6,000 organizations, including schools, hospitals and cultural institutions.

Metro plans to buy ads in more than 100 newspapers and purchase commercial time on television and radio stations. Caltrans will use lighted signs along the highways.

» RELATED STORY: Stretch Of 405 Freeway To Be Closed Tuesday Morning

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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