(CNS) - Los Angeles' midsummer traffic nightmare dubbed "Carmageddon" might just be a good reason to stay home, because alternate routes around the closed 10-mile section of the San Diego (405) Freeway are likely to be jammed. "We believe the streets will be totally gridlocked," Sherman Oaks resident Richard Tyler, who lives near Sepulveda Boulevard, told the Los Angeles Times. "We don't think we will be able to get out ... We even wonder how the mailman will get around."
Caltrans crews, who have southbound Pacific Coast Highway narrowed by one lane for a dry-season runoff diversion project, are reportedly working to move K-rails and open up the coastal route for drivers using Topanga Canyon Boulevard or other valley-to-city canyon roads to bypass the mess.
With the possibility that canyon roads will be clogged from Malibu to Hollywood, as well as the surface streets that feed into them, Bruce Gillman of the city's Department of Transportation suggested that those who have to drive stick to freeways -- even if that means a Westsider bound for Sherman Oaks has to take the Santa Monica (10) Freeway east, the Hollywood (101) Freeway north through the Cahuenga Pass, then Ventura (101) Freeway west. "If people want to go out and drive, they could be putting themselves into a very frustrating situation," Gilman told The Times.
The affected stretch of freeway is said to be the busiest in the country, with about 330,000 vehicles traveling through the Sepulveda Pass daily.
Other likely trouble spots include Beverly Glen Boulevard, Benedict Canyon Drive, Coldwater Canyon Drive, Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard. In West Los Angeles, surface streets around junction of the 405 and the 10 freeways also could be jammed.
The weekend closing is only the first of two. The same stretch of freeway will be closed for a weekend next summer to accommodate the replacement of the second half of the Mulholland Drive Bridge -- all a part of $1 billion carpool lane running from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley. But the Los Angeles Times reports that an alternative plan to replace the bridge in one fell swoop -- and save $4 million to $10 million -- was rejected in February.
Also, Mulholland Drive, which would have remained at four lanes under the alternative plan, will be reduced to two lanes for the next two years.
In February, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Caltrans presented a plan in which a new, realigned bridge would be built before tearing down the old one. And while the transportation officials favored the idea, hillside property owners in the Sepulveda Pass opposed it, saying the less costly bridge was not in line with Mulholland Drive's "unique and distinctly rustic character."
Stymied by homeowner groups and under pressure to move forward, transportation officials reverted to the original plan.
The 53-hour freeway closure has prompted hospitals at UCLA to offer beds to employees who might have a hard time getting to work July 15-17, and public safety officials plan to have helicopters and ambulances staged in key areas.