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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Forget HOV lanes … what we need is an American Autobahn toll road.

    Charge $25 a month for unlimited usage (because you won’t be able to charge $8 a gallon for gas like in most European countries). All drivers must have a vehicle capable of sustained 100+ MPH travel, and be authorized to use the road (use the EZ Pass transponders like the toll roads have).

    But… for the price, the road has to be smooth and technologically superior just like the Autobahn…. and It must have the benefits of the Autobahn, like the legal ability to drive 150 MPH.

  4. @Carl
    Yeah but at least there is always BART as a direct alternative. Not yet the case with the sepulveda pass…

  5. At least it is not the 4th of July weekend like the closing of the Bay Bridge in San Fancisco a couple of years ago. I guess they figured everyone would run from the city before the holiday weekend.

  6. Looking at the diagram, the Sepulveda Pass would be open for local access; so how about granting Metro Rapid 761 and the Van Nuys FlyAway buses exclusive access as an alternative? 761 already runs on Sepulveda Boulevard.

  7. Agreed with Bob Thomas above…why is there no mention of Metrolink or Red Line from North Hollywood as worthy alternatives? Why are we keep pushing the subject of more freeway/driving alternatives? Let people know that public transit is available and maybe push for the additional service on that weekend.

    • Hi there;

      You both raise excellent points about transit as an alternative to driving that weekend and we’ll be writing more about alternatives as we get closer to the date. That said, at this point we’re trying to reach the segment of our audience that is most likely to be driving that weekend for whatever reason and to let them know about what they’ll be facing.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. If one is going from the valley to the west side, they are going to be making a C shape in their route to get there since basically all direct routes like sepulveda and the 405 will be shut down and any remaining roads or streets will be absolutely swamped with traffic. This shut down actually provides a good opportunity for non-transit riders to actually try transit for once. Although It would be nice if metro (as someone else mentioned) would use one street that links the SFV to the westside and reserve it only for buses as that would be the most efficient use of road space.

    Anyways, people should use the orange line bus to go to the red line in North Hollywood and take that to wilshire/vermont. Then from there take a westbound 920 or 720 bus to go to points west like Beverly hills, westwood, santa monica, etc. Alternately, they can take metrolink/amtrak to union station downtown, get on a purple line to wilshire/western and take a 920 or 720 bus from there. It may take a while, but at least one can be doing something with their time rather than having their hands on the steering wheel the whole time moving at 5 mph.

  9. I’m surprised that this article in “The Source” didn’t include one obvious answer: take public transportation if you can do it. Good time to investigate the rail lines if you’ve never done it.

    Moreover, I certainly hope that Caltrans will not schedule any non-emergency freeway work in the L.A. area during that weekend, since people will be using other freeways to get around the Sepulveda Pass.

  10. All this for ONE HOV LANE that might someday be turned into a toll lane (as being done on other freeways).
    The wealthy appreciate all our suffering for their quicker commute in 6 years.