LOS ANGELES The demolition of a bridge that forced the weekend closure of one of the nation's busiest freeways is on schedule, while many Los Angeles drivers heeded warnings to steer clear of the area, and officials expect to reopen the lanes as planned Monday morning.
Crews working around the clock since Friday evening have taken down all but two columns of the Mulholland Drive bridge over Interstate 405, Rick Jagger, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Sunday morning. The project is part of a $1 billion project to widen the freeway to accommodate a new carpool lane.
"Everything's on pace for the 5 a.m. Monday reopening," Jagger said.
Drivers faced additional challenges Sunday as the Herbalife Los Angeles Triathlon temporarily closed many surface streets between Venice Beach and downtown LA. Metro detoured 42 bus lines, which meant riders could experience some delays, Jagger said.
Surface streets in the closure area were clogged, but overall officials said traffic tie-ups were minimal. As temperatures climbed into the 90s, those who couldn't resist a trip to the beach said traffic was smooth.
"We've been all over the city, no traffic. We even went to Dairy Queen for an ice cream and there was nobody there," Marilyn Millen told KNBC-TV on Saturday.
California Highway Patrol officers cited seven people on Interstate 405 early Sunday, including a group of rollerbladers and newlyweds who sneaked onto the roadway to celebrate their nuptials.
For weeks, Angelenos have been warned to avoid the area on LA's West Side. If they don't, officials warn, a citywide traffic jam could result. But beyond just scare tactics, city officials have been encouraging Southern Californians to get out and enjoy their own neighborhoods on foot, on bikes or via short drives on surface streets.
During a similar closure last year, commuters stayed away from the freeway in droves, the shutdown was considered a success, and crews finished the first phase of the work early.
This time, the contractor faces a penalty if the work isn't done in 53 hours. The fine is $6,000 per lane of freeway, for every 10 minutes over the deadline. Demolition temporarily halted Saturday when a large chunk of the bridge unexpectedly came down, but the contractor said it wouldn't delay the project.
The closed section of the freeway carries about 500,000 motorists each day on a typical weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. California Department of Transportation officials said that in order for Carmageddon II to be a success, at least two-thirds of those drivers need to stay off the road.
Meanwhile, TV news crews made good on a promise to avoid a traffic jam in the sky as they cover the shutdown.
Residents complained of low-flying, noisy helicopters hovering nonstop over the region last year. This time, local television news directors pooled coverage by using video from a single helicopter making limited flights over the freeway.