The East Coast and South may still be forced indoors by Mother Nature this weekend. Southern California residents will not be shut down by snow, they will be forced indoors (or at least their immediate neighborhoods) by Jamzilla, the apocalyptic name transportation officials gave to their planned closure of the 405 Freeway for this entire three-day weekend.
For 80 hours, most or all lanes will be closed on the northbound side of the 405 freeway. One or two southbound lanes will also be closed at times. Freeway ramps in the area will begin to close at 7 p.m. Friday. The freeway shutdown will begin 10 p.m. Friday (just in time for those coming back from Valentine’s dinners) and last through 6 a.m. Tuesday. Romantic officials promise to keep some lanes open until late Friday night because of Valentine’s Day, but will begin closing lanes at 10 that night. This weekend was selected because Monday is a federal holiday and schools as well as many businesses will be closed.
The 405 Freeway is a major Southern California traffic artery connecting the San Fernando Valley and points north with the Westside (UCLA, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Los Angeles International Airport and more). More than 300,000 cars used the roadway each day. There are circuitous ways around the closure through other parts of Los Angeles. Some small roads through the area will remain open, but they are likely to be heavily congested. People in the area are advised to stay close to home to avoid the hassle.
The Jamzilla shut down this weekend is the latest phase in a $1.1 billion Southern California 405 freeway-widening project that began in 2009. The effort by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was started to address the notorious congestion on the 405. The project will add a carpool lane, redesigned on- and off-ramps in places, new bridges over the corridor, and miles of retaining walls. It was supposed to be completed one year ago. They now forecast completing the work this summer.
Last time the freeway was closed by construction, charmingly labeled Carmageddon by transportation officials, was for the demolition of the old bridges spanning the road. The demolition was completed early and the freeway re-opened well ahead of schedule.
Government officials caution that it is unlikely there can be an early finish this time. The construction teams will be removing the old pavement, then adding in new pavement. Each layer of pavement must be “cured” for eight hours to achieve full strength. Some portions will require three layers. Then, they will stripe the freeway lanes. Adding to the complexity of the undertaking, the contractor will be shifting the freeway centerline to the west for approximately 1,000 feet because a residential building adjacent to the freeway on the east precluded widening on the east side.
The most complex work will be where the northbound 405 meets Sepulveda Boulevard and another freeway, the U.S. 101. The approach slabs must be upgraded and reinforced with rebar for earthquake safety.
Jamzilla is not the last major 405 Freeway weekend shutdown before people in Southern California can celebrate completion. The southbound side will be paved during another multi-day event later this spring.
By Dyanne Weiss