By Aaron Blevins, 5/17/2012
Wilshire Ramps to be Closed for Three Months
First, there was Carmageddon. Now comes the Rampture. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will be closing two of the eight on and off ramps at Wilshire Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway on June 22, and officials are asking the public to prepare accordingly.
L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, said the two keys ramps — the westbound Wilshire on-ramp to the northbound 405 and the northbound 405 off-ramp to westbound Wilshire — will be closed for “three long months,” unlike Carmageddon’s 53-hour battle.
“Construction crews will be working day and night, 24/7, to get this work completed as quickly as possible,” Yaroslavsky said during a news conference. “But the honest truth is, and we have to be transparently blunt about this, is we’re going to be here awhile — in the worst traffic congestion we’ve seen in a long time.”
He said the work is a key part of the $1.04 billion I-405/Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that will affect the nation’s busiest boulevard where it meets the nation’s busiest freeway. Tens of thousands of freeway-bound motorists travel the area daily.
Contractors will eventually replace all eight ramps, but the closures of the remaining six have not been announced. Yaroslavsky said the remaining six will be closed between two weeks and three months, and officials will try to give the public ample time to prepare.
The work is slated to improve roadway conditions while adding a northbound car pool lane on the 405 between the Santa Monica (10) Freeway and the Ventura (101) Freeway.
“It will also make key capacity improvements to this interchange and vitally important safety improvements,” Yaroslavsky said, adding that the entire project must be completed by 2013.
In an attempt to mitigate the inevitable congestion, workers will make Sepulveda Boulevard, which is currently under construction, fully operational by June 22. Yaroslavsky said the westbound 10 Freeway ramp to the northbound 405, “which has been an unmitigated disaster for quite some time,” will also be completed by then.
Changeable message signs will be installed to alert drivers of the upcoming construction, and traffic control officers will be on hand for the first few days of each closure. The city’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control System will fine-tune the area traffic signals to reduce congestion.
“But again, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that these closures are going to be anything but horrible and add significant delays to an already congested Westside,” Yaroslavsky said. “We need the public’s cooperation, just like we did with Carmageddon.”
He said the most obvious detours will direct motorists to major streets, such as Sepulveda Boulevard, to access on and off ramps at Moraga Drive and Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards. Yaroslavsky said northbound and westbound motorists on the 405/10 will be directed to the exit at Bundy Drive.
“We do not, however, recommend that local detours through communities be utilized,” he added. “Local streets are intended for local residents and local access only.”
During the news conference, officials repeatedly pleaded for the public’s help. Yaroslavsky asked commuters to plan ahead, adjust schedules, map alternate routes, stagger work hours and telecommute one or two days per week, if possible. He also asked residents to car pool as much as possible.
“If it typically takes you forty-five minutes to get through this intersection, plan on doubling the time at least initially,” Yaroslavsky said. “There is no magic bullet to cure this congestion. Adding time to your commute may be the only feasible solution if you live and work in this area every day. …This is a critical safety project. These ramps are a critical safety project. These are the worst on and off ramps in America. Those who travel the San Diego Freeway to and from Wilshire Boulevard know this all too well.”
He said the two ramps to close have been nothing but a “traffic accident magnet” for decades and are apart of the original deficiencies of the 405. The ramps pit motorists trying to merge onto to the 405 against motorists trying to slow down and exit the freeway onto Wilshire Boulevard.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, District 11, represents constituents west of the Sepulveda/Wilshire intersection. He reiterated Yaroslavsky’s statements, saying that residents must have patience.
“It is not going to be easy to move around on the Westside,” he said. “We have to car pool, we have to plan ahead and we have to put more time in our schedules. If we don’t have patience, we’re not going to make it.”
He praised Metro officials for waiting to close the ramps after school is out for the summer and after UCLA has had its graduation ceremonies. Rosendahl asked employers to manage their employees’ work schedules with the construction in mind.
“Things will be much better in three months,” he said. “But, let’s face it, every day is a tough road on this side of town.”
For information on the closures, visit www.metro.net/projects/i-405.