Carmageddon 2012 is here, potentially. One of the world's busiest freeways in Los Angeles is closed and officials are hoping that drivers paid attention to the warnings of a potential severe traffic jam called Carmageddon II. For 53 hours the 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway is shut down and drivers have been warned to stay off the roads this weekend.
The 405 freeway in Los Angeles was closed down in a similar fashion last year. Drivers were warned to stay off the roads to prevent major traffic gridlock, which they were calling Carmageddon. With plenty of warnings of how bad the traffic would be, drivers complied and stayed home that weekend. Carmageddon never happened.
"Carmageddon, Schmarmageddon," Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said last year, after the freeway shutdown, according to Reuters.
This year, the freeway was closed early Saturday and it should remain closed as a bridge is rebuilt before the Monday morning rush traffic. The freeway is expected to be open by 5 a.m. on Monday.
While last year's freeway closure went smoothly, officials are worried that people may not take it so seriously this year even though they have been warned for weeks. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority spent $150,000 just to advertise warnings about the closure in weeks leading up to it. Billboards and electronic signs were placed as far as Sacramento, over 350 miles away, about the closure.
However, officials believe that it could be a bigger problem this year since it went smoothly last year.
"If people don't think it's a problem, it will be one," Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz told Reuters.
About half a million vehicles use the Sepulveda Pass of the 405 Freeway during a usual weekend. While the shutdown may be an inconvenience for drivers, contractors of the project are also feeling the pressure. If the project isn't finished within 53 hours, the contractor will be facing major fines for keeping the road closed longer.
"The penalty is $6,000 per lane of freeway, per 10 minutes. Let's assume the entire freeway isn't reopened, that's $60,000 every 10 minutes," Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Dave Sotero told KCBS-TV.
Workers will demolish the north side of a bridge that spans the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. This weekend's project is part of a $1 billion project to make the freeway wider as a convenience to drivers. Last year, the south side of the bridge was demolished and made wider.
Drivers are being encouraged to just stay home this weekend and to enjoy what their own neighborhoods have to offer. The official Carmageddon II slogan is "Eat, Shop and Play Locally." To encourage this, hundreds of restaurants, attractions and other places are giving discounts to people who can show proof that they took public transportation instead of driving.