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(photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN Santa Monican Priscilla Bathalon plans to utilize a unique means of transportation the weekend of July 16-17 — a scooter and backroads to avoid the traffic caused by the impending closure of Interstate 405.

The closure, popularly termed “Carmageddon,” is expected to cause a traffic jam of epic proportions.

The Mulholland Drive bridge demolition will catalyze a 10-mile closure along the 405 North, between Interstate 10 and U.S. 101, and a four-mile closure on the 405 South between the 101 and the Getty Center exit.

“I’ll be hibernating that weekend,” said resident Tony Leech, paralleling the sentiments of other Santa Monicans who plan to stay close to home on July 16 and 17.

The freeway shut down will begin as early as 7 p.m. on Friday, July 15, but the 405 is expected to reopen before Monday morning rush hour, said Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Dave Sotero.

Sotero explained that drivers must anticipate multi-hour delays.

Lt. Ken Semko of the Santa Monica Police Department will be in charge of coordinating City Hall’s response to the closure and will be stationed at the Public Safety Facility’s Emergency Operations Center that weekend. He is working with other Santa Monica officials to ensure that the closure will not severely impact residents.

City Hall will deploy additional public safety personnel to guarantee things run smoothly that weekend.

“We don’t know what the effect will be like in Santa Monica, but we’re taking steps to make sure that we have just about every contingency planned for,” Semko said.

Approximately 100 additional personnel who are not local residents will be housed in Santa Monica to be prepared for immediate mobilization in the event of a crisis, Semko said.

City officials are encouraging Santa Monicans to stay local that weekend, echoing the MTA’s call for drivers to “plan ahead, avoid the area or stay home.”

The MTA is counting on cities to create incentives for people to stay local, Sotero said.

“You can eat, shop and play within a small radius of your house,” he added.

Many local businesses are offering discounts and deals to Santa Monicans on Carmageddon weekend. For more information, visit www.santamonica.com/405.

The local Farmers’ Market will also remain open for business, said market Supervisor Laura Avery. As scheduled, two markets will occur on Saturday and one will take place on Sunday. Avery said she advised farmers to plan for three to six-hour delays in traffic, but very few farmers canceled.

Avery is working with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to secure Olympic High School’s parking lot for trucks that need to stay overnight to make it to multiple markets.

Market customers can also host farmers throughout the weekend. Interested parties can approach farmers at upcoming markets, or visit the market information booth.

For those who have no choice but to brave traffic, extra buses will run in the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, and additional Metrolink trains will also operate. Bus fare will be free on Metro’s Red, Purple and Orange lines.

Drivers who opt out of public transportation should be aware that side streets like Sepulveda Boulevard are meant for residential traffic, and are not equipped to handle the outflow of cars like the artery of a freeway, Sotero said.

He recommends that drivers frequently check traffic on websites like sigalert.com and account for traffic when departing for a destination. The city’s website (www.smgov.net), Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/santamonicacity), AM 1680 radio station, CityTV cable channel 16 and other outreach tools will keep Santa Monicans updated on freeway construction progress throughout that weekend.

When it’s time to hit the road during that busy weekend, perhaps residents should take a page out of resident Daisy Nwosu’s book and prepare “long, death-traffic playlists” on their iPods.

news@smdp.com

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