ABC7 Traffic Center

Carmageddon 2 ends; 405 Freeway through Sepulveda Pass reopens

Sunday, September 30, 2012
California Highway Patrol officers begin to escort the first drivers to board the I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass when the northbound lanes reopened on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Cindy Whitehead is seen on a closed portion of the I-405 during Carmageddon 2 weekend. The 405 Freeway was closed from the 10 to 101 freeways on Sept. 29 and Sept. 30 as crews demolished the north side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge.

Carmageddon 2 has come to an end. All lanes of the I-405 between the 101 and 10 freeways reopened by midnight and traffic was moving smoothly in both directions.

The full reopening began with the northbound lanes around 8:45 p.m. and the southbound lanes followed.

The reopening of the busiest and most congested freeway in the U.S. came hours earlier than predicted. Crews working on dismantling the Mulholland Drive Bridge had a 5 a.m. Monday deadline, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a Sunday evening press conference that there would not be an early opening.

Starting around midnight Saturday when that stretch of the I-405 was fully shut down, crews had 53 hours to complete their work. Had they overshot their Monday morning deadline, a late penalty of about $360,000 would have been charged to them every hour.

Crews had more work to do this year compared to the first Carmageddon last year, which finished 17 hours ahead of schedule.

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

"There were four columns. They've taken down two, so there are two remaining. The one on the west side is going to be tipped over. They're working on that now. It'll be tipped over against the embankment and then it'll be broken into pieces and carted away," said Kim Upton, a Metro spokesperson. "The one on the east side is being cut into small bits as it stands because it's too close to the new construction. They want to make sure the new construction is safe."

The demolition is part of the $1-billion Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which adds a 10-mile northbound carpool lane. On Sunday, crews also paved the freeway between the Skirball Center Drive and Mulholland Drive bridges.

There was a minor setback Saturday when a massive section of the old bridge came crashing down. No injuries were reported, but work had to stop so that structural engineers could conduct an inspection. They determined the columns were sound and crews were able to continue working. A similar incident took place earlier in the day when the center span of the bridge dropped in a huge hunk rather than in pieces as expected. Despite the bump in the carefully choreographed demolition, officials said it did not hinder the project.

Car specialist Dave Kunz has your shortcuts through Carmageddon 2

Many drivers heeded warnings from officials to stay away from the area. For the most part, Carmageddon 2 went smoothly.

At least seven citations were handed out Sunday morning for trespassing on the 405 Freeway. A newlywed couple was cited at 3:40 a.m. after being spotted on a closed onramp at Sunset Boulevard, according to the California Highway Patrol. Four rollerbladers also were cited for trespassing as they left the offramp at Getty Center Drive. One other pedestrian was cited for a clandestine romp on the freeway as well.

The CHP had issued a stern warning about shenanigans during the closure, saying trespassers would be arrested. The warning was issued based on the actions of trespassers last year.

While traffic on the detours through the Sepulveda Pass moved fairly well, it was not smooth enough for some residents in the area. Some big rig drivers apparently used Sepulveda Boulevard to bypass construction, ignoring temporary height and weight restrictions.

Residents said the trucks were clogging up streets and became a nuisance. Signs warning truckers were placed across the area. Police also beefed up their presence and officers stood by with ticket pads.

Adding to the Carmageddon 2 mix on Sunday was the 13th annual Herbalife Triathlon Los Angeles, which required road closures from Venice to downtown Los Angeles. Organizers said they didn't mean to double-book their event on the same weekend and that it had been scheduled way before Carmageddon 2 dates were announced.

As for the benefits of Carmageddon, officials said if this year is anything like the last, a lot of people will be breathing a little easier when the weekend is over. According to a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, the air quality in the area of the 405 closure improved more than 80 percent during the 2011 Carmageddon event.

Because there was less traffic in general across Southern California, air quality improved significantly from West Los Angeles to Yucaipa and Ventura and beyond. The improvement surprised researchers, but it was short-lived. The effect was gone within a week.

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