Q: I keep hearing about the 405 Freeway shutting down for the weekend of July 16-17. I am not a Santa Monica resident, but I work and socialize in the city on the weekends. How bad is the traffic expected to be?
A: As we all know, the 405 is a heavily traveled freeway. With the 405 shutting down for the weekend, traffic conditions on local streets and alternate freeways within the Los Angeles region and beyond are expected to be severe, with significant, multi-hour delays. Motorists who must travel during that weekend are advised to plan ahead and monitor traffic conditions through a media source. You can find more information about the freeway closure at www.metro.net/405. On this website you will find a fact sheet, detour information and updates.
If you must travel the weekend of July 16-17, plan ahead. Please give yourself extra time to travel even a relatively short distance. Preparing for the congestion and giving yourself the extra time will cut down on the stress the traffic will produce. As an example of how we feel the traffic will be affected in the city of Santa Monica, we are expecting the traffic to be like a busy summer weekend, perhaps slightly increased, and are recommending that residents consider taking a bus or using bicycles, walking and other alternate forms of transportation that weekend. Traffic will be monitored closely and officers will be on duty to facilitate traffic flow in the city.
With the 405 closed, Pacific Coast Highway and Interstate 10 will be the primary detour routes for travelers going north or south along the coast. Although not likely given the amount of advanced notification and significant publicity of alternate travel routes, there may be a significant increase in traffic throughout Santa Monica as people try to get across the city and out of the freeway congestion.
Another warning I would like to give is that with the 405 closing, the side streets, like Sepulveda Boulevard, will be very crowded as well. Sepulveda Boulevard is intended as an alternate route for local resident access only. Sepulveda Boulevard will not have the capacity to accommodate both local and diverted freeway traffic. Those using Sepulveda Boulevard should expect extreme congestion and lengthy delays. Motorists should instead use alternate regional freeway routes to completely bypass the Sepulveda Pass. Other roads like PCH and the canyon roads will also be heavily traveled. These roads are expected to have rush hour level traffic with back-ups during the closure. Keep in mind that people coming from the Santa Barbara and Ventura County areas who need to get to places like LAX are likely to try to use these roads as alternates for getting around the closure rather than going through the Los Angeles downtown area. PCH is expected to be a widely used alternate as people try to avoid going too far east to avoid the 405 closure. There is sewer construction in progress on PCH in the Pacific Palisades area which will take the three lanes down to two lanes for a segment of PCH. It is anticipated that there will be significant back-up traffic on PCH during the 405 closure.
Remember to plan ahead. If you have a flight in or out of LAX, we have been told that visitors arriving from LAX should avoid the 405 and stay on surface streets. At this time, the recommendation is to use a shared ride and a mode of transportation that will cost the visitor a flat rate for their ride to their destination. Using a service with a driver who knows the area locally will be a good bet as well.
LAX has its own web page about the 405 closure that can be accessed through the LAX home page at lawa.org/welcomelax.aspx.
Before you start out for LAX, monitor traffic on a real-time basis at:
• L.A. Department of Transportation monitors traffic on L.A. city streets on its Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system: http://trafficinfo.lacity.org
For traffic on streets in and around LAX: http://trafficinfo.lacity.org/html/lax.html
• Caltrans provides current traffic status on California highways and state roads at: http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi
• LAX AirRadio 530 AM on the radio will replace its regular programming of pre-recorded messages with “live” broadcasts of up-to-the-minute information on roadway conditions in and around LAX, parking availability, security conditions, flight operations, etc. The broadcasts are streamed on the Internet: http://www.lawa.org/welcome_lax.aspx?id=168
For those in the hospitality industry, please realize that your guests may be spending a long time to get to your hotel/restaurant/business in order to keep their reservation with you. You may wish to have some special amenities that weekend to make them feel welcome upon their arrival. A nice cool drink, a warm welcome and an understanding of what they may have gone through can go a long way to putting the focus back on their visit to Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau has committed to sending out e-mail updates to Santa Monica businesses as more information becomes available. You can learn more by going to www.santamonica.com/
This column was prepared by NRO Joseph Cortez, Beat 4. He can be reached at (424) 200-0684.