ABC7 Traffic Center

Carmageddon 2: 405 Freeway demolition hiccup momentarily halts work

Saturday, September 29, 2012
The demolition of the Mulholland Drive Bridge during Carmageddon 2 on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and members of the media got a tour of the I-405 work site on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Eyewitness News reporter Amy Powell puts side roads from the San Fernando Valley to LAX to the test during Carmageddon 2 on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Many San Fernando Valley residents stayed close to home during Carmageddon weekend. Thats good news for local businesses. In this photo, a pizza is delivered in Sherman Oaks on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. LA City Fire Department engines are seen in this undated file photo. Machines work away at the Mulholland Drive Bridge during Carmageddon 2 on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. A closure sign is shown in this undated file photo.

Crews were hard at work demolishing the columns of the north half of the Mulholland Drive Bridge on Saturday.

It didn't go exactly as they had planned. A massive section of the 50-year-old old bridge came crashing down - not according to plan.

"On an operation of this size, of this magnitude, pieces come down of all different sizes and shapes," said Dan Kulka with Kiewit Construction. "We did not anticipate this, although it's not unusual for a big piece to come down like that."

Nobody was hurt, but work came to a halt in order for structural engineers to conduct an inspection. Once they determined the columns were sound, the chipping away continued.

As of 11 p.m. Saturday, the project was on schedule. Officials said the center and western span of the north side bridge was complete, while the eastern span was about 75 percent finished. There was no damage to the south side of the bridge.

A 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways was completely shut down around midnight Saturday. Overnight, workers moved mounds of dirt onto the freeway to provide a 4-foot cushion to protect it during the demolition.

Watch a live stream of the demolition work on the 405 Freeway

Crews are using a large jackhammer to break apart the bridge. Some 4 million pounds of concrete are expected to fall..

Officials said overall traffic delays weren't dramatic and drivers were mostly staying away.

"If people keep on heeding the call, they stay local, shop local, get on Metro, everything's going to be OK," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The work is all part of the $1-billion Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which adds a 10-mile northbound carpool lane.

Crews have 53 hours to complete their work. If they are not done on time, a late penalty of about $360,000 will be charged to them every hour. Last year, they finished 17 hours early. Officials do not expect to do that this year, because the demolition will be more complicated.

"Last time, there were two columns we had to take down. Each of those columns weigh a million pounds. This time, it's four columns," said Metro spokesman Marc Littman. "Plus, we have to be careful particularly of one of the columns that just can't fall where it wants to...otherwise, it could damage the newly reconstructed southern half of the bridge."

Officials are vowing to stay on schedule. They hope to reopen the freeway by 5 a.m. Monday, with ramps reopening at 6 a.m., in time for the morning commute.

"It would be really Carmageddon if it was late. The financial part of it is important to us, but I think even more important to us is that we made a commitment to the people of Los Angeles to open it at 5 a.m. [Monday], and there are thousands of people in the Los Angeles basin who are relying on us to make that happen," Kiewit said.

Last year, drivers heeded warnings to stay off the roads and officials hope drivers will do the same again this year. People are being urged to eat, shop and play locally.

Car specialist Dave Kunz has your shortcuts through Carmageddon 2

There are several shortcuts through the valley and the Westside, including La Cienega Boulevard to the north and south. Sawtelle Boulevard also runs parallel to the 405 Freeway, but it ends in Westwood. The most popular and busiest will probably be Sepulveda Boulevard. The best way to get from the valley to the beaches is Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

In the valley, Burbank Boulevard is a good alternative to the 101 Freeway. Balboa Boulevard will get you from the 101 Freeway to the 118 Freeway, and Coldwater Canyon Boulevard will get you over the hill from the valley into the Westside.

Officials suggest that people traveling to and from Los Angeles International Airport use public transit and plan for longer travel times. Using the LAX FlyAway Bus is one option. Those still planning to drive to LAX can use Sepulveda and Lincoln boulevards.

Temperatures are expected to soar this weekend, which means the fire danger is high. Emergency crews say they're ready to respond to anything during Carmageddon 2. First responders are hoping most people stay off the roads so that emergency vehicles can get to a major accident or fire.

"Being able to get to those locations as quick as possible is the absolute critical factor for us," said Capt. Alicia Mathis of the Los Angeles City Fire Department.

An additional 13 fire engines and 200 firefighters will be staged on both sides of the Sepulveda Pass. There also will be five first responders on motorcycles who can get to emergencies quickly.

"Because we have so many resources in that immediate area, we are ready to respond even more so than on a regular day," said Mathis.

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