LA freeways shut down for "Carmageddon II"


LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: A group of people monitor construction crews demolishing a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge along the 405 Freeway September 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The 405 Freeway is completely shut down for a 10 mile stretch this weekend for the demolition that is part of a larger $1-billion freeway improvement project.



LOS ANGELES --  Angelenos have been warned for months to stay away from one of the nation's busiest freeways this weekend as construction crews shut down a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405. 

'Carmageddon II' started smoothly Saturday morning as workers started dismantling a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge, where the Sepulveda Pass on Los Angeles' west side will be closed for the entire weekend.

The bridge and its pillars will be replaced and the freeway will be widened to accommodate a new carpool lane, reports AP.

Last year's 'Carmageddon', when another stretch of the 405 was closed for the weekend, sparked so much panic that most Angelenos left town or avoided the roads - leaving the remaining freeways so clear of traffic that air pollution dropped significantly, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

This year, transportation officials are hoping for a replay. 

"So far, so good," said Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Dave Sotero told AP. "Drivers are staying away from the demolition area."

Taxi driver Mike Miketyan told the LA Times that he was preparing for a slow night like last year.

"Business was slow. Everyone stayed home, I guess. I just remember being not busy, not busy at all," Miketyan said.

Last year's freeway closure went so smoothly that crews were able to finish the work early. This year, they're hoping for a repeat since the contractor faces a penalty if the work isn't competed in 53 hours. 

"The penalty is $6,000 per lane of freeway, per 10 minutes. Let's assume the entire freeway isn't reopened, that's $60,000 every 10 minutes," Sotero told KCBS-TV.

[View the story "Angelenos avoid the roads for \"Carmageddon II\"" on Storify]