405 Freeway to Close for a Weekend for Bridge Work

By Jose Martinez, 5/18/2011

Major Improvement Project Will Begin on July 15


Motorists beware, the 405 Freeway will be completely shut down between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside for approximately 53 hours during the weekend of July 15. The 405 will be closed Friday at midnight and will not reopen until 5 a.m. on Monday, July 18.

“This is manageable as long as the public cooperates,” Metro spokesperson Marc Littman said. “If you can stay home, great. If you don’t have to drive, don’t.”

The south side of the Mulholland Bridge will be demolished during the closure,  and approximately 11 months later, after it has been rebuilt, the 405 will once again be shut down over the course of a weekend so that the north side can be demolished and rebuilt.

The $1 billion Sepulveda Pass project began construction in July 2010 and will be completed in 2013. When finished, it will add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane; widen underpasses; build 18 miles of sound and retaining walls; create new or improved ramps, including new “flyover” ramps at Wilshire Boulevard; and seismically retrofit the Mulholland Bridge, built in 1960.

Demolition work on the Sunset and Skirball bridges took place previously over a series of nights without closing the freeway, but the steepness of the Mulholland Bridge makes the weekend-long closure necessary to protect passing motorists. Metro officials estimate that during a typical weekend, the 405, one of the nation’s busiest freeways, supports 500,000 vehicles.

“Metro is urging people to stay home,” Littman said. “We don’t want everybody to head over the canyon. It will be quite a detour for people, no matter how you cut it. If everyone who drives the 405 on weekends drives, that’s going to be a challenge. There’s short-term pain, but long-term gain.”

County officials also stressed the closure will be a necessary inconvenience.

“Everybody recognizes this has to be done,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District. “Caltrans determined to do this on a summer weekend when most people will be off the road. That bridge has to be reconstructed. They’ve determined to give everyone ample notice when the freeway will be closed.”

As word spread of the looming freeway closure, Metro received calls from concerned people worried about plans in case of an emergencies.

“Arrangements have been made for emergencies,” Littman said. “We just want to give people a couple of months notice. We don’t want people to panic.”

With the demolition planned for the middle of July, beach and airport traffic could make for a nightmare on the road.

“I’m in the same boat as everyone else,” Yaroslavsky said. “My plan is not to be anywhere near West L.A. There’s not going to be an easy way to make the North/South commute. People need to figure out what they’re doing that weekend. The best thing to do, if you don’t have to use your car, is to stay home. It’s not going to be pretty, but we all need to suck it up. It’s going to be fifty-three hours of hell, but this is a project that is going to last us a century.”

Yaroslavsky and Metro officials both cite the 1984 Summer Olympics as an example of potential traffic jams that can be avoided if people adjust their driving plans.

“We had the best traffic ever over two weeks because people made other arrangements,” Littman said.

“If you give people a lot of notice, they will adjust their plans to avoid the tie up,” Yaroslavsky said. “Angelenos are very adept at finding alternate routes. This is marathon and triathlon traffic on steroids. For people who need to get to work or to the airport, look broadly at alternate routes. All the cross-mountain roads are going to be jammed. Be patient, this is a community-wide undertaking and we’re all going to suffer together.”

Metro officials are currently working on a contingency plan to reroute buses, and will hold press conferences at future dates to inform the public of alternate routes.

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