March 14, 2013
With the massive 405 Project now two-thirds complete, officials have unveiled a staggered endgame schedule which calls for major portions of the project to wrap up this year while work on one troublesome segment continues into 2014.
The delay involves the project’s middle segment—chiefly in the area around Montana Avenue and Church Lane—where utility relocations and the necessity of shifting Sepulveda Boulevard have proved vastly more time-consuming than expected.
Overall, unforeseen utility relocation issues have not only eaten up valuable time but also have driven up the cost of building the project, according to a briefing presented this week to Metro’s Construction Committee.
Engineering challenges involving a single 12-foot-by-12-foot box encasing a storm drain under Sepulveda Boulevard were particularly problematic, project manager Mike Barbour told the committee. In addition, 16 retaining walls needed to be torn down and rebuilt because they were deemed to be structurally unsound.
Metro officials say that even with the unanticipated obstacles, the project’s “design-build” construction process, in which engineering takes place as work moves along, has saved hundreds of millions of dollars and seven years of building time.
As it stands now, virtually all of the utilities have now been relocated, and the project is on track to finish work on most major elements by year’s end—including the Wilshire flyover ramps and all three bridges that have been demolished and are being rebuilt as part of the project.
The heart of the undertaking is construction of a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 Freeway from the 10 to the 101. When completed, it will form part of a 100-mile carpool lane through Los Angeles and Orange Counties, believed to be the nation’s longest such stretch.
In addition to building the carpool lane and demolishing and reconstructing the Sunset, Skirball and Mulholland bridges, workers have realigned 28 on- and off-ramps, widened more than a dozen underpasses and constructed some 18 miles of retaining and sound walls.
The southernmost segment of the project, running from the 10 Freeway to Wilshire Boulevard, is expected to open by mid-year, while the north stretch is on target to finish by year’s end, Barbour said.
The sheer size and complexity of the project has made things difficult for those who live in the area, Barbour acknowledged. But the end is in sight.
“They’re getting through it,” he said in a recent interview. “We’re as frustrated as they are. It’s been a long, torturous job.”
March 14, 2013
It was 1913 when William Mulholland famously declared, “There it is. Take it.”
But it wasn’t until 1915 that thirsty folks down in the city of Los Angeles could actually take a swig of all that Owens River water pouring into the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
The missing link? The City Trunk Line, known at the time as the “San Fernando Syphon,” an underground water pipe stretching from Sylmar across the Valley (not yet part Los Angeles) through a tunnel in the Santa Monica Mountains to the Franklin Reservoir above Beverly Hills.
With the trunk line’s completion on June 6, 1914, and connecting pipes finished the following year, Mulholland’s aqueduct at last had a direct connection to the city whose growth it would fuel so explosively in the decades to come.
Now, 99 years later, a new generation of Angelenos is feeling its power. And not in a good way.
Commuters on Coldwater Canyon Avenue, a major thoroughfare between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, recently learned that the street will be closing between Mulholland Drive and Ventura Boulevard for nearly five weeks, from March 23-April 25, so that the city’s Department of Water and Power can replace a 1.3-mile segment of the aging pipe. [Updated 4/24/13: Coldwater Canyon has been reopened, two days ahead of schedule, city officials announced. However, restrictions on left-hand turns are still in place through June 1.)
Clearly, the inconvenience will be sizeable. As Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told reporters at a news conference this week announcing the closure: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. And this is a pig of a project.”
But he and other local leaders emphasized that the work is important—and unavoidable.
Corroded and susceptible to leaks, a section of the trunk line burst sensationally in 2009, sending millions of gallons of water bursting through the pavement and damaging homes and businesses around Coldwater Canyon and Ventura Boulevard. Earlier, in 2002, the line ruptured in Pacoima after workers inadvertently scraped the pipe, hastening corrosion on that segment to the breaking point.
The Coldwater Canyon closure comes after some 35-45% of the old pipe already has been replaced; modernizing the entire trunk line is expected to take about ten years, said Susan Rowghani, director of the DWP’s water engineering and technical services division.
About 25,000 gallons of water gush through the trunk line on the average each minute. With a diameter ranging from 62 inches to 72 inches in various places, the pipe is smaller than the massive pipes of the aqueduct itself, which range from 84 inches to 120 inches and were photographed at the time of construction with automobiles and even horse-drawn buggies parked comfortably inside. Other than size, though, the pipes used in the aqueduct and trunk line were virtually identical, made of the same riveted steel that was the construction standard at the time, said Fred Barker, manager of water transmission operations at the DWP and the agency’s unofficial historian.
Despite the trunk line’s ripe old age, he said, it’s far from unique in the city’s subterranean water world, where 287 miles of the DWP’s 7,289 miles of pipe date back to 1914 or before.
There’s even a cast iron pipe from the mid-1880s that still runs under 7th Street downtown for six to eight blocks, he said. There are no plans to replace it at the moment. “It’s performing very well,” Barker said. “There’s no need to replace a pipe that doesn’t leak.”
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the venerable City Trunk Line. So it’s with a sense of respect for history that Barker marks its inevitable passing from the scene.
“We talk about this event in 1913, when Mulholland and 40,000 people were out there and the water came down the hill and he said, ‘There it is. Take it.’ But the only way they could take it was in little souvenir bottles…if you wanted that water, you had to go out to Sylmar to get it.
“They had to get it to the city. This is the pipe that did it.”
Now the riveted steel pipe of a century ago is giving way to modern day welded steel—which, Barker said, “is going to last at least as long—and maybe twice as long.”
January 15, 2013
Pop quiz, kids. Grab your No. 2 pencil and turn your attention to one of the 405 Freeway’s most fabled stretches. The Sepulveda Pass is:
a) A crucial thoroughfare between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley
b) Part of a long-running $1 billion-plus construction project
c) The hill L.A. commuters love to hate
You don’t have to be a drive-time traffic reporter to know that the answer is “all of the above.” But if all you know about the Sepulveda Pass is what you’ve seen through your car’s windshield, an upcoming course at the Skirball Cultural Center aims to unspool the mysteries—historic, geographic, and cultural—behind an essential piece of the Los Angeles landscape.
“The Sepulveda Pass: From Creation to Carmageddon” will be held on four Sunday afternoons beginning February 10. The instructor is Erik Greenberg, director of education at the Autry National Center, who aims to take students on a tour of the Pass from its geologic beginnings through centuries of human history, including its emergence as an important center of Jewish life in Los Angeles as home to institutions including the American Jewish University, Stephen S. Wise Temple and the Skirball.
“The Pass plays an important role in the lives of lots and lots of people,” said Greenberg, pointing out that the stretch has been called “L.A.’s Brooklyn Bridge—dividing people and uniting people.”
Adele Lander Burke, vice president of the Skirball’s “Learning for Life” adult education program, said it was high time to explore the Pass.
“I think it’s on people’s minds a lot,” she said. “We lived through two Carmageddons and did quite well…also, it’s on Sundays. There’s no construction going on during the weekend, so it’s very easy access.”
The four-session class costs $60 for Skirball members, $75 for non-members. Bragging rights for your next commuting gripe session: priceless.
October 4, 2012
A wider, modernized Sunset Bridge is set to reopen for business on Monday, September 24, marking a major milestone in the progress of the 405 Project to bring a northbound carpool lane and other improvements to one of the nation’s most heavily-traveled freeways.
The rebuilt bridge will be 120 feet across—30 feet wider than its 1950s-era predecessor. In addition to two travel lanes in each direction, it also has new, dedicated turn lanes for motorists to access the freeway without affecting the flow of east-west traffic. Sidewalks and shoulders are wider, too, and the bridge has been upgraded to current seismic standards.
The bridge provides a major conduit across the Westside, with UCLA on one side and Brentwood on the other. Between 18,000 and 22,000 motorists cross it each weekday.
“It’s a lot wider and much safer,” said Mike Barbour, who is heading up the project for Metro. “It’ll be a lot more comfortable for people to get on and off the freeway.”
Monday’s reopening comes after more than two years of demolition and reconstruction work on the bridge. One final push is needed to complete the job, however, and the bridge will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The bridge will be reduced to a single lane in each direction from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Details are here.
The Sunset Bridge is the first of three overpasses to be demolished and rebuilt during the 405 Project. Demolition work on one of the others, the Mulholland Bridge, will take place on September 29 and 30 will require the weekend-long 405 Freeway closure known as Carmageddon II. Angelenos are being encouraged to “eat, shop and play locally” during the closure and to avoid driving in the area.
September 27, 2012
When it comes to traffic, nobody is savvier than the L.A. driver.
We check the traffic report before we leave the house, guard favorite surface street alternatives like state secrets, and know that a fender-bender on one side of town can quickly morph into commuting misery many miles away.
In other words, we know that we’re all in this together.
That’s why we were able to prove all the skeptics wrong last year when we sailed through Carmageddon without a SigAlert in sight. People heeded the warnings, stayed well away from the 405 Project construction zone and—strangely enough—ended up making it a weekend that Los Angeles long will remember fondly.
Now we have an opportunity to do it all again. Our destiny is once more in our own hands as Carmageddon II closes down a 10-mile stretch of the nation’s busiest freeway, the 405, for 53 straight hours this weekend to allow for the safe demolition of the Mulholland Bridge as part of an ambitious freeway widening and modernization project.
The first on- and off-ramps will start closing at 7 p.m. on Friday, and by midnight, the entire freeway will be shut down in both directions, all the way from the 10 Freeway to the 101.
Clearly, despite the positive outcome last summer, the potential for major gridlock is still there. You can’t take away a route traveled by a half-million motorists every weekend and expect things to go smoothly—unless we all change our ways for 53 hours.
But Angelenos proved during the first Carmageddon that changing our ways isn’t just about meeting our civic responsibility. It also can be a heck of a lot of fun.
So please, follow the official advice to stay out of the construction area and eat, shop and play locally. It’s a welcome chance to get to know our own neighborhoods better, to patronize a local business that we’ve been meaning to try, or to check out a nearby arts happening.
Or if you prefer to venture out of your neighborhood, leave your car at home and test-drive our constantly improving public transit system. Since the first Carmageddon, Los Angeles has gained more than 12 miles of new mass transit lines: the Expo Line light rail running from downtown L.A. to Culver City, and the Orange Line Extension rapid transit busway from Warner Center to Chatsworth.
This weekend, both lines can serve as portals to the big wide world beyond the Carmageddon II impact zone, especially for residents of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. Riding the Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth, for instance, makes it possible to connect with Amtrak and ride up the coast for a stress-free, car-free weekend in Santa Barbara. Hopping aboard Expo in Culver City offers an easy way to get to destinations including the county Natural History Museum in Exposition Park or LA Live downtown, where the Herbalife Triathlon Los Angeles finishes around mid-day on Sunday. The possibilities are endless.
However you spend Carmageddon II weekend, have fun, stay out of the car as much as you can and try to see it as a needed respite from our busy, on-the-go lives.
Monday morning will be here before you know it.
For detailed maps of where the construction is happening, and how to avoid it, click here. In addition, Caltrans’ new QuickMap offers up-to-the-minute reports on road conditions. Be sure to click the “slow-fast” icon at the top of the left-hand column for color-coded real-time traffic information.
September 27, 2012
Sure, you could sit around and mope all weekend, fretting about the 53-hour closure of the 405 Freeway.
Or you could come out of Carmageddon II with a free bagel, a discounted letterman jacket and some newfound pole dancing skills.
Already feeling separation anxiety from your car? A complimentary 15-minute chair massage from Physical Therapy Solutions could help you cope. Fear of driving in a post-Carmageddon world? Hypnosis might work, and the price of the first session is 50% off at Scripting Your LifePlay.
As Los Angeles prepares to confront a second Carmageddon weekend on Sept. 29-30, the discounts, freebies and special offers are flying. Many neighborhood businesses are hoping for a boost from local customers sticking close to home for the weekend, as well as from those ditching their cars in favor of public transportation to get to attractions and services throughout the region.
Metro, which along with Caltrans is responsible for the massive 405 improvements project that includes Carmageddon II, has been working feverishly to turn the lemon of a lengthy freeway closure into some sweet, bargain-hunting lemonade.
“To just say to people ‘eat/shop/play locally’ is not enough. It needed to have legs, it needed to have incentives attached to make it real, to make it viable,” said Fran Curbello, the Metro communications manager heading up the initiative. “We gave our business community a chance to be part of the solution.”
While some of the deals require presentation of a Metro TAP card, other businesses are extending their discounts and freebies to all comers this weekend—no questions asked.
At Select Beer Store in Redondo Beach, for instance, customers can just say “Carmageddon” to claim a free bag of chips as they order a brew (while supplies last!)
Although Metro’s primary objective is to get people riding public transit, it also has an interest in helping folks find diversions close to home this weekend. Curbello suspects that most merchants won’t particularly care whether their customers arrive by bus, bike or (gasp) automobile, as long they’re staying in the neighborhood—and away from the 405 construction zone.
“It’s good business,” she said.
The participants range from mom-and-pop eateries to big hotels and major museums. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for example, is offering ½ price admission to everyone who comes “via an alternate mode of transportation.” At another point on the artistic spectrum, Madame Tussauds Hollywood is having some fun with numbers and offering a 40.5% discount (get it?) on adult and children’s tickets. (Enter promo code 4050 if ordering online.)
Even for armchair bargain-hunters, Metro’s interactive Eat/Shop/Play map is worth a few clicks, just to marvel at the idiosyncratic glories of Los Angeles itself as it goes on sale for the weekend.
There are traveling notaries (J Lawson Mobile Notary of North Hollywood) and educators who make house calls (Tutor Doctor of Van Nuys.) There are horses to ride at the Sunset Ranch near the Hollywood sign and Segways for hire in the South Bay. Xtreme Martial Arts is offering discounts in North Hollywood and Rise-The Studio in Santa Monica is pushing 25% off all its “meditative and playful pole dancing classes” on Sept. 29 and 30.
Then there’s the food. Lots of it.
Most of the participating restaurants are offering discounts, but many are throwing in freebies.
“I’m ready to give away some hot links, that’s what I’m gonna do,” said Kevin Huling, owner of Les Sisters Southern Kitchen in Chatsworth, who’s hoping the new Orange Line extension will help bring customers his way. “I am hoping more people come down here. It’s a bit of a walk, but we’re walking distance from the Chatsworth Station.”
The moveable feast also includes free naan bread at Saffron in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, an on-the-house bagel for transit riders at the Onegeneration booth at the Encino Farmers Market, and a free side dish or beverage at Mel’s Fish Shack on West Jefferson, near the Expo Line’s Farmdale Station.
Those seeking a more lasting souvenir of Carmageddon II might consider making an automotive style statement with tire rims from EZ Rims 4 Rent on Crenshaw Boulevard. For this weekend, they’re offering $50 off purchase and rent-to-own transactions.
“Hopefully it does pretty well,” manager Fidel Ozuna said. “We are anticipating a pretty decent weekend.”
September 25, 2012
If you absolutely, positively must drive this weekend, here’s your road map for steering clear of trouble.
Wherever you’re heading, your object should be to stay as far away as possible from the 405 Freeway, which will be closed from the 10 to the 101 on Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30. Ramps will begin closing 7 p.m on Friday, Sept. 28, with full closure of the freeway in both directions beginning at midnight.
Things are set to reopen, after a full 53 hours of construction work, at 5 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 1. The work is needed to demolish the north side of the Mulholland Bridge, which will be torn down and rebuilt as part of a massive improvements project through the Sepulveda Pass.
The official mantra is stay close to home, patronize local businesses, savor your own neighborhood and give your car the weekend off. But if you have to drive, these maps will help guide you around the project zone and Southern California as a whole.
August 27, 2012
Carmageddon, last summer’s blockbuster traffic success story, is back with a fall sequel. And to keep Part II from turning into the disaster predicted—and averted—the first time around, officials say it will be more important than ever to go “car-light” or “car-free” during the last weekend in September.
Starting around 7 p.m. on Friday, September 28, ramps to the 405 Freeway will begin closing in advance of a weekend-long shutdown of the entire freeway through the Sepulveda Pass.
The full, 10-mile stretch of the 405 running from the 10 Freeway to the 101 will be closed all of Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30. It is set to reopen at 5 a.m. on Monday, October 1.
Avoiding epic gridlock for a second time may be a tall order, but officials said they are confident the public can pull it off.
“During Carmageddon I, drivers proved the skeptics wrong,” said Supervisor and Metro Director Zev Yaroslavsky. “They heard our warnings and stayed off the roads…And I have every confidence they’ll rise to the occasion again.”
The planned 53-hour closure of the freeway is needed to dismantle the north side of the Mulholland Bridge over the 405. The south side was demolished last summer, but it has taken longer than expected to rebuild, leading to delays in scheduling Carmageddon II.
Picking a suitable weekend meant juggling around big dates like the start of the fall quarter at UCLA (September 24) and transporting the Space Shuttle Endeavor from LAX to the California Science Center in Exposition Park (likely sometime in October.)
The weekend of September 29-30 “was the least impact, that we could tell,” said Mike Barbour, who’s heading up the project for Metro.
The project is part of a major, multi-year effort to build a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the 405 Freeway, along with other improvements, including redesigned flyover ramps at Wilshire Boulevard. Overall, the project is running four to six months behind schedule, but officials are optimistic they can make up some of that time and still reach “substantial completion” next year.
Work wrapped up 17 hours early during the first Carmageddon—a pleasant surprise that’s unlikely to be repeated this time around, Barbour said.
“There’s more to knock down and more to remove,” he said, adding that workers also will be taking advantage of the lengthy closure to get a jump on maintenance and construction work elsewhere on the freeway.
“The project is pushing to get this job done as soon as possible,” he said, “so we can get out of everybody’s hair.”
August 27, 2012
Whether you’ve been following every twist and turn of the 405 Project as it progresses or are just trying to catch up on the latest strategies for coping with Carmageddon II, an upcoming community meeting can help.
At the September 6 meeting, officials will present information about all the closures, detours and alternative routes being developed as Los Angeles gets ready to navigate the second coming of Carmageddon. That long-running closure of the entire 405 Freeway between the 10 and the 101 takes place the last weekend in September.
The first ramps will begin closing at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 28. The full freeway will be closed on Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30, and is set to reopen at 5 a.m. on Monday, October 1. The closures are needed so workers can demolish the north side of the Mulholland Bridge over the freeway—part of a wide-ranging project to bring a northbound carpool lane and other improvements to the stretch of the 405 that runs through the Sepulveda Pass.
The community meeting will take place at Ahmanson Hall in the Skirball Center, 2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard. Free parking will be available in the north garage on the Skirball grounds, and in the east garage on the east side ofSepulveda Boulevard.
During the original Carmageddon last summer, motorists heeded the official warnings about staying off the roads and things turned out better than expected. This time around, the message to the public has been tweaked and officials are advising people to “Plan Ahead, Avoid the Area, or Eat, Shop and Play Locally.”