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‘Carmageddon': The Sequel… Set For September

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Another 10-mile full closure of the San Diego (405) Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass — already being dubbed “Carmageddon II” — will take place the weekend of Sept. 29-30.

Crews will be demolishing the north side of the Mulholland bridge over the freeway, transportation officials announced Thursday.

“Carmageddon II” initially was scheduled to begin in June, but construction was delayed due to a $300 million lawsuit, communication concerns from the FBI and unexpected utility work.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have already begun advising motorists across the state to plan ahead and avoid the area that weekend to prevent massive traffic congestion.

“This closure will surely impact the nearly 250,000 motorists from all over the county that travel the Sepulveda Pass each day on the weekend,” said Metro board chairman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. “Law enforcement, transportation and emergency response agencies strongly advise that county residents make plans in advance to use an alternate route or transit.”

The first “Carmageddon” occurred in July 2011, but the anticipated massive traffic congestion never materialized, as motorists apparently got the message to avoid the area and stay home that weekend.

Officials said during the closure there were 65 percent fewer automobiles on freeways in the LA metro area, compared with normal weekend traffic.

The California Department of Transportation reopened the freeway in phases. The off-ramps were opened first, then the freeway itself, followed by connectors from other freeways and the on-ramps.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday that while trouble never arose last year, residents should not “become complacent” this time around.

“Rather, let’s join together to enjoy another car-light or car-free weekend with family and friends,” he said. “Let’s all help get this critical job done safely and without incident.”

Sepulveda Boulevard will be available as an alternate route during the closure for local traffic only.

On Sept. 28, ramps along the closure area will begin to be shut down as early as 7 p.m., and individual freeway lanes will begin at 10 p.m., with the entire freeway expected to be closed by midnight between the Santa Monica (10) and Ventura (101) freeways.

The closure is expected to continue until 5 a.m. Oct. 1, although during last year’s closure, the contractor finished its work 17 hours earlier than expected.

Metro officials said an early completion was unlikely in September, because two sets of bridge columns must be removed, compared with one last year. The demolition work will also be more complicated because of inactive utility lines, according to Metro.

The demolition and reconstruction of the Mulholland bridge is part of the $1 billion Sepulveda Pass improvement project that is adding a 10-mile northbound carpool lane and making other upgrades along the route. The project is expected to be completed next year.

“During Carmageddon I, drivers proved the skeptics wrong,” said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, also a member of the Metro board. “They heard our warnings and stayed off the roads, creating a traffic breather not seen since the free-flowing freeways of the 1984 Olympics. I have every confidence they’ll rise to the occasion again.”

Will things go smoothly the second time around?

Amanda Burden, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, went out Thursday in search of answers.

She spoke to business owners who are already preparing.

Michael Lamb is general manager of Senor Fred’s restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. He said last year’s Carmageddon killed the eatery’s cash flow.

“We did half of what we normally did and really hurts the staff because they work pay check to pay check.” He wants to remind the driving public, “I hope people support their local businesses and remember businesses are open and they can still serve you.”

Casa de Flores also suffered. “Especially for our driver,” said Nellie,  “He was having trouble doing the delivery and coming back here.”

Burden says some businesses took advantage of having a captive audience, specifically the Valley Inn in Sherman Oaks.

The Valley Inn even created a series of food and drink promotions. When the 405 closed, they got busier. Said Sophia, “It was very busy. It was probably the best business we had in years.”

(©2012 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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