(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
by William M. Welch, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES - Drivers in car-dependent Southern California here proved they can get out from behind the wheel at least one weekend a year.
City officials said traffic tie-ups were minimal and work proceeded on schedule as a heavily used stretch of freeway on the city's west side that was closed for construction over the weekend was reopened.
Carmageddon II as it was called -- a repeat of the July 2011 closure of 10 miles of Interstate 405 -- disrupted normal traffic patterns for thousands of motorists. Similar to last year, the closure created lots of talk and worry, but few of the transit headaches that had been feared.
Bridgework that caused the closure of Interstate 405 was completed and lanes of the freeway were being reopened Sunday night, hours ahead of a planned reopening for the Monday morning commute.
The first drivers allowed back on the roadway cheered and honked their car horns as news cameras rolled.
The section of freeway closed over the weekend normally carries 250,000 vehicles a day, even on weekends, Metro officials say. It is the main route for vehicles traveling between the San Fernando Valley section of the city across the Sepulveda Pass through the Santa Monica Mountains to Westwood, Santa Monica and the west side of Los Angeles.
The closure that began Friday night prompted some motorists to try to use surface streets through the canyon pass, clogging those narrow roadways. Trucks were routed onto Interstate 10 into downtown Los Angeles, where from there they could take other freeways to the north.
There were a few instances of pedestrians trying to sneak onto the closed freeway to enjoy the sights from a slap of concrete normally crowded with traffic 24 hours a day. The California Highway Patrol said it cited pedestrians that tried to get onto the closed freeway, some trying to use skateboards, said Rick Jager, spokesman for the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
More traffic may have been disrupted by an unrelated event - a triathalon with 2,500 participants prompted closure Sunday morning of several streets between Venice Beach and downtown Los Angeles. Metro said it had to reroute 42 bus lines to accommodate the foot and bicycle racers. Also, the Los Angeles Dodgers were playing a home baseball game at their stadium near downtown, adding more traffic to freeways in the area, Jager said.
Still, he said traffic was "fairly light'' all weekend.
"I think people are savvy here,'' Jager said. "They understand what's going on. This isn't something new. It happened last year. This is phase two. Hopefully they took our advice to eat, play and stay local.''
The closure was required to complete demolition of an overpass bridge that carries Mulholland Drive across I-405. One side of the east-west bridge was demolished during the closure in 2011, and workers were knocking down the remaining portion this weekend. It is being replaced by a wider new bridge, and the freeway below is being widened.
By Sunday afternoon, all that remained to be torn down was one of three giant concrete support posts. Some parts of the bridge came apart in larger-than-expected chunks, but that caused no serious issues, Jager said.
With I-405 closed from its intersection with I-10 northward to U.S. 101, California Department of Transportation workers used the lack of traffic to do other work on the roadway, including repaving and repainting some sections. Many businesses in the area and major attractions such as the Getty Center museum were closed because of the freeway work.
Contributing: The Associated Press