It's carmageddon! Hollywood braces for the ultimate gridlock

Click to follow
The Independent US

In Manila they have typhoons and in Japan it's been devastating earthquakes.

Click HERE to upload graphic: How the LA A-List Tweeted About Their Troubles (237.741kb)

But what is the pending not-entirely-natural disaster that has all of Los Angeles on edge this weekend? It's the closure of a 10-mile stretch of an interstate highway and the "carmageddon" some say it will trigger.

The problem is that Angelinos rarely consider leaving home if it isn't behind the wheel of a car. Bus? Bicycle? Walk? They don't think so. Nor does it help that the section of the freeway involved, Interstate 405, is one of the busiest in the city, handling half a million vehicles on a typical July weekend. The closure was due to begin after rush hour last night and last 53 hours.

The Los Angeles police can only pray that their efforts to warn drivers about the work – the reconstruction of the 50-year-old Mulholland Bridge as part of a $1bn road-widening plan – will have persuaded as many of them as possible to stow their car keys until Monday morning when all lanes will be open again.

As part of that public information campaign, several Los Angeles-based celebrities agreed to help sound the alarm about the likely traffic chaos on their Twitter feeds. "Avoid Carmageddon, Gas-zilla, 405-enstein, Grid-lock-apalooza! STAY HOME. Eat & shop local! Hanx," the actor Tom Hanks urged followers.

In a similarly humorous mood, Ashton Kutcher tweeted: "LAPD askd me 2tweet: 405fwy btwn 10 & 101 will b closed July16-17. In xchange I would like a free pass on that stoplight tickt IT WAS YELLOW." Other names invented for this weekend in La-La-Land have included "autodammerung" and "carpocalypse".

There is no room, however, for not taking the likely consequences of the closures seriously, officials insist. Hospitals are asking nurses and doctors to sleep over at the job and not risk being late for work. Airlines are telling passengers using LAX airport, just off the 405, to leave home two hours earlier than usual.

Reports abound, meanwhile, of residents preparing as if for a hurricane, stockpiling food and other necessities. Some weddings that were set for this weekend have been postponed as have assorted sporting events, all in an effort to keep car traffic to a minimum.

Not since the Michael Jackson funeral two years ago or the 1984 Olympic Games has so much been done to keep city residents out of their natural habitat of leather, plastic and exhaust fumes at least for two days.

The city is also hoping meanwhile to encourage its citizenry to overcome their instinctive antipathy to mass transport by offering free rides on the underground and bus systems until Monday. It also persuaded Facebook to direct users in the area to a special page set up to explain the likely disruptions.

JetBlue Airlines, a large American discount carrier, is offering a sky-bridge helicopter ride for residents looking to cross the city from north to south.

Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa made clear that no one should underestimate what losing 10 miles of a single interstate for two days might mean. "There's gridlock on the 405 virtually any time of the day... On July 16 and 17, it will be an absolute nightmare," he said.