CITYWIDE ‚Äî Santa Monica is revving up to stay local this weekend as the Southland prepares for fall‚Äôs most anticipated sequel ‚Äî Carmageddon II.
Officials from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin shutting down a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 at 7 p.m. on Friday so that workers can complete the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge, a process begun last year.
The closure is scheduled to continue until 5 a.m. Monday morning, and ramps are expected to reopen by 6 a.m.
The demolition is part of the 405-Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which includes the creation of a 10-mile carpool lane on the northbound side of the 405 between Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 101.
The I-405 is the busiest freeway in the nation, with approximately 500,000 drivers using the north-south passage on a given weekend, said Dave Sotero, spokesperson for the MTA.
Despite bleak prognostications of motorists trapped in traffic snarls and civilians stranded without access to emergency responders, worry about the first Carmageddon fizzled with what people say were the lightest traffic loads seen in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics.
The project finished up 17 hours ahead of schedule, further alleviating traffic concerns by opening the roadways before Angelenos headed to work that Monday.
Now, officials are worried that the first round‚Äôs success may lead to the second‚Äôs failure.
“This year there may not be as much fear,” Sotero said. “That can work against us if we start to see congestion queues on the freeway and roads.”
Caltrans announced Wednesday that if residents decide to ignore the warnings and take to the streets anyway, the result could be multi-mile backups all the way to the Kern County line, Sotero said.
Unlike last year, it‚Äôs extremely unlikely that drivers will be able to take to the roads early.
Workers demolished the southern side of the Mulholland Bridge last year, which included only one pair of columns. This year, they‚Äôll be doing two pairs on the northern side, Sotero said.
Given those factors, officials are renewing their calls for residents to avoid their cars and use the weekend as an opportunity to rediscover their neighborhoods and public transportation, Sotero said.
Whether the weekend brings a violent storm or a tempest in a teapot, Santa Monica officials stand at the ready.
Police, fire and other emergency responders are preparing for the worst case scenario ‚Äî severe traffic throughout city streets and the Westside as a result of the closure.
If a large number of people get trapped in Santa Monica by heavy traffic, officials worry about people getting frustrated and succumbing to road rage, or the streets being so packed that police can‚Äôt respond to normal calls for service, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department.
In response, Santa Monica is preparing to put additional police on the roads and keep them localized in specific regions of the city to minimize the amount of cross-city travel they‚Äôd have to do to respond to an emergency.
City Hall plans to rent a helicopter to scout out conditions on Saturday and potentially Sunday, depending on the severity of the traffic problems. The helicopter will give emergency personnel the ability to have eyes on any issue within a minute, no matter where it occurs in the city, said Lt. Kenneth Semko, manager of the Office of Emergency Management.
All of the resources deployed throughout Santa Monica will be coordinated from the brand new Emergency Operations Center, located in the Public Safety Facility.
“Field personnel are only able to see what‚Äôs in front of them,” Semko said. “This gives them the big picture. We can feed that information to them and get them supplies and personnel they need in the field.”
Officials in the EOC will also be able to get information from regional agencies like the Los Angeles police and fire departments and the Department of Transportation.
Unlike the police, local businesses see the possibility of large numbers of people trapped in Santa Monica as an opportunity.
Over 40 businesses involved in the Buy Local Santa Monica campaign will have deals listed at www.smgov.net/405 along with routes for self-guided bike tours centered around themes like vintage clothing and art and other car-free activities, said Jennifer Taylor, chair of the Buy Local Santa Monica committee.
Businesses all over town are putting out steep discounts, like Upper West Restaurant on Pico Boulevard, which is giving a 10 percent discount on the bill to those who mention the special offer seen in this newspaper.
On Main Street, those interested in a little inner peace can stop by the Shiatsu Massage School of California on Sunday between 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. for a community-based yoga class.
Souliers, a 19-year-old shoe store on Montana Avenue, will be giving a 10 percent discount on its high-end footwear to those who stop by to escape the traffic.
Those looking to walk rather than drive can hit up the Carmageddon II Pub Crawl on Saturday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drink specials will be delivered through a smartphone app called UMeTime.
Not everyone will be able to stay off the roads this weekend, but those who can‚Äôt should be prepared.
The Office of Emergency Management suggests bringing a fully-charged cell phone and phone charger, a flashlight with spare batteries, a first-aid kit and necessary medications, nonperishable food items, water, jumper cables and a blanket.
An extra AM/FM radio to listen to traffic reports and emergency messages also couldn‚Äôt hurt.
“We‚Äôre pretty confident that things will be just fine, but if not, we‚Äôre ready,” Semko said.