405 closure question: how bad is traffic going to be?

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As you are hopefully aware by now, the 405 freeway will be closed between the 10 and 101 freeways — in other words, over the Sepulveda Pass — from the evening of Friday, July 15, until the early morning of Monday, July 18.

The freeway is being shut down for the partial demolition of the Mulholland Bridge as part of the work needed to widen the freeway as part of the I-405/Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project. Among the improvements: building a northbound carpool lane over the pass, updating on- and off-ramps and rebuilding bridges across the freeway to better handle traffic and earthquakes.

Here’s the most recent press release, issued late last week. The message, in short: plan ahead, avoid the area or stay home. There is expected to be severe congestion throughout the area.

Which leads me to an email we recently received from someone who lives in the Santa Clarita area. In short, this person said their family was going on vacation to Northern California and planning on returning Saturday, July 17.

The specific question: Would traffic on the southbound 5 freeway be backed up all the way to Santa Clarita and beyond to the point that the family couldn’t reach their home or would be stuck on the freeway for hours trying to do so?

My honest answer: Lacking a traffic crystal ball, I don’t know.

I like to think that the L.A. metro area has survived freeway closures in the past, both planned and unplanned — and some which lasted many hours or days.

Still, it’s a good question. A few thoughts:

•If you’re going to be in the L.A. area that weekend — particularly near Sepulveda Pass — try to avoid discretionary car trips and find stuff to do close to home.

•If you have to go out, spend some time with Google Maps or a Thomas Guide (remember those?) and map out two or three alternate routes around the area. Think about using surface streets.

•There are many websites that allow you to monitor freeway and surface street traffic on your cell phone. Use them that weekend to see how traffic is faring and to plan the best route. Among them: Google Maps mobile and Go511.com.

•Under no circumstance should you head out and hope that a GPS navigation system will bail you out of trouble in real-time. Many nav systems are reliable. Many are not 100 percent reliable.

To repeat, I don’t see the freeway closure in apocalyptic terms. I do see it as a big hassle, but one that can be avoided if many people can avoid driving that weekend.

13 replies

  1. I don’t understand why caltrans and metro are only adding one northbound carpool lane and not adding any additional southbound lanes. It doesn’t make sense were going through all these closures for just one additional lane that will only help part of the problem.

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  2. The radio reported today that Sepulveda will be open to through traffic. Is this true?

    If you were to reserve Sepulveda for locals and buses only, it would provide a useful (and fast) alternative for those of us considerate enough to take Metro. But if you keep it open to through traffic, it will just plug up and be next to useless for everybody.

    Please, reserve Sepulveda for locals and buses only! And advertise that the 761 is making fast trips between the Valley and the Westside. And add some extra 761 capacity for that weekend, please!

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