405 reasons to plan a new July route [updated]

May 18, 2011 

On July 15, moviegoers around the country will find out whether Voldemort meets his doom in a showdown with the wizarding world. But if you’re thinking of catching a midnight showing of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in Westwood, better find a way to get there that doesn’t involve the 405 Freeway.

That same night marks the beginning of the end for the Mulholland Bridge. After two hours of prep work starting at 10 p.m. on July 15,  demolition of the bridge will begin just after midnight—a maneuver that will require a weekend-long closure of one of the most heavily traveled freeways in the nation.

Moviegoers are just one L.A. interest group that will need to come up with alternate routes to navigate the 53-hour closure, which will be in effect all day Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, and will continue till 5 a.m. on Monday, July 18. At this point, plans call for closing the freeway from Getty Center Drive to the 101 Freeway, but that and other details may change depending on the outcome of meetings being held this week among Metro, the CHP and other agencies.

Updated 5/27/11: The latest plans call for the 405 Freeway to be closed northbound from the 10 Freeway to the 101. The southbound freeway will be closed from the 101 to the Getty Center Drive offramps. Full details are here.

Already, the mega-closure has event organizers and others scrambling for ways to cope. From LAX-bound travelers to beachgoers, golf lovers to museum hoppers, the closure promises to throw a big curve into that perennial L.A. question of how to get there from here.

The Skirball Cultural Center has decided to close its gallery doors altogether for the weekend—which means you’ll need to pick another time to check out the center’s popular Houdini and “Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age” exhibits.

At this point, just one private event—a wedding—is still on the books for the Skirball that weekend. The staff is “cooperating closely with the families to come up with best options for guiding guests to our site as efficiently as possible and extending welcome to them upon arrival and throughout the event,” spokeswoman Mia Cariño said in an email.

Like that intrepid wedding party, the nearby Getty Center has opted to stay the course and will remain open. The Getty expects “strong visitorship despite the freeway construction,” spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said in a statement, pointing out that, as plans stand now, the northbound Getty Center Drive ramp will be open, while visitors coming from the south will need to take Sepulveda Boulevard.

Updated 6/2/11: The Getty has since decided to close for the weekend. And that last wedding party at the Skirball? They’ve rescheduled for July15.

The Hermosa Beach Open Beach Volleyball Tournament is also scheduled for that weekend—and the freeway closure plans were not welcome news to organizer Dave Williams.

“This is the first I’m hearing of it. Yes, it will be very negative,” he said. “It’s a big event. We may have to move it.”

Further south, the Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes is the setting for the big Los Angeles Police Celebrity Annual Golf Tournament on Saturday, July 16—which may also require some extra planning by those traveling from the Westside or San Fernando Valley.

“We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to notify people of alternate routes,” said Alan Atkins, executive director of the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation, which puts on the traditionally star-studded tournament, to be hosted this year by Jerry West. “It’s going to cause a lot of headaches because probably half of them come from the Westside.”

And at UCLA, school’s not in session, but parents of students enrolled in high school summer programs on the campus that weekend are being notified of potential pick-up and drop-off challenges.

Whatever your summer plans may be, the advice from Metro, which along with Caltrans is running the 405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, is to stay home that weekend if possible or become well-acquainted with the official detour maps before leaving home, since freeways and surface streets beyond the 405 may be affected.

Mike Barbour, in charge of the project for Metro, said picking the date for the weekend-long closure meant avoiding holiday weekends and times when schools were in session.

“We think this is the right date. It was sort of a light weekend, really,” Barbour said.

While the project’s other demolition work on the Sunset and Skirball bridges required a series of overnight closures of the freeway, the steepness of the Mulholland Bridge means that it will be safer for motorists if the demo work is done over one weekend, Metro officials said.

Still, the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge will be the easy part compared to the “very daunting” task of arranging and communicating the freeway closure, Barbour said.

“I would say that the technical work is not that big of a deal,” Barbour said. “But traffic management, and working with all these different agencies, and coming up with a plan to convince people to stay off the freeway—it’s very significant. It’s very challenging.”

Posted 5/18/11

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