LOS ANGELES – Carmageddon II, the sequel to last year's shutdown of one of the nation's busiest freeways, is going according to script as many Los Angeles drivers heeded warnings to stay off the road.
Traffic tie-ups were minimal Saturday as construction crews worked around the clock to tear down a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge on Interstate 405 as part of a $1 billion project to add a new carpool lane. Officials said the demolition was on schedule and that they expect to reopen the freeway as planned for Monday morning.
For the most part, drivers steered clear from the freeway.
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.
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 afternoon when a large chunk of the bridge unexpectedly came down, but the contractor said it won'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 appeared to make 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 have plans to pool coverage by using video from a single helicopter making limited flights over the freeway, according to Rick Terrell, executive director of the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.
The participating stations include major broadcasters including KABC-TV, KCBS-TV and KTTV-TV.