Only in Los Angeles.
Anxiety is high in the City of Angels, one of the most car-dependent cities around, as residents prepared for a 53-hour closure this weekend of a crucial segment of one of the most heavily trafficked north-south corridors, Interstate 405, as part of a construction project.
The closure of the 10-mile section of highway in the U.S.'s second-largest city, the home of famously congested freeways and road rage, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. local time Friday, and will end at 5 a.m. Monday morning. As workers began closing onramps and offramps, Angelenos were preparing for what has been dubbed "Carmageddon," a massive traffic disaster, according to the Los Angeles Times:
"Carmageddon" traffic could back up 20 miles on the 405 Freeway -- as far south as the 110 Freeway -- under a worst-case scenario, transportation officials said.
Interstate 405 carries about 500,000 vehicles on a typical weekend, through western Los Angeles and over the Sepulveda Pass into the San Fernando Valley. City officials have been warning Southern California residents for weeks about the potential for a traffic jam of epic proportions, complete with gridlock and chaos, and they've been begging residents to stay home or get far away, anything but driving anywhere near the construction area, the New York Times reported.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he thought July 16 and 17 “will be an absolute nightmare,” according to the Washington Post:
Commuters trying to get from a freeway like the 10 to the 101 will have no way to connect. Those trying to get from the San Fernando Valley to the central coast will find it impossible to do so. Four big hospitals in Santa Monica and Los Angeles have complained that doctors, nurses, and patients won’t be able to get to emergency rooms.
For those who choose not to leave the area, local businesses were coming up with creative deals, including special packages at hotels and enticements from restaurants. According to Time:
If you plan to stay home to avoid the chaos, Redbox, the operator of DVD-vending machines, has discounts for movies and video games. If you get hungry, you can order Papa John's, which has been blaring the slogan "Don't drive the 405. Let Papa John's deliver." If you dare to brave the traffic, you can listen to "Carmageddon Radio" on Sirius XM to stay updated on road conditions. If you want to leave home but not the city, the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills is offering "405 Staycation" packages to help people escape the gridlock. Or, if you do want to get out of Dodge, the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas is offering weekend Carmageddon packages.
And for those who just absolutely have to go somewhere, helicopter taxi rides were being offered for $150 to passengers who just had to get to Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend, while JetBlue was offering a $4 fare to fly people from Burbank to Long Beach Airport, a 10-minute flight, according to BBC News.
The freeway shutdown is part of a $1 billion project to widen the highway and involves demolishing a bridge that carries Mulholland Drive across the highway, Reuters reported.