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Thursday
Jul142011

Los Angeles Gears Up for 'Carmaggedon'

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- "Carmaggedon" is almost here -- and Los Angeles is on pins and needles.

The much-ballyhooed shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of the key 405 freeway -- used on a typical weekend by half a million motorists -- starts at midnight Friday and continues until early Monday. In a city where walking is considered weird and public transportation an afterthought, the closure has sparked anxiety and generated huge publicity.

It has its own Facebook page, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, and Twitter-savvy celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Tom Hanks have tweeted to warn drivers to stay home.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the closure area, has a countdown clock on his website anticipating the shutdown to the second. He is planning on spending much of the weekend in the emergency operations center downtown. "I think the preparation has gone extremely well," he said. "Most people understand that the guaranteed way to avoid aggravation is to not be in your car."

He said LA residents are organizing block parties and barbecues and are stocking up on DVDs for a weekend staycation. "Everybody's going to do it their own way."

The 53-hour closure -- which will happen again in 11 months -- is part of a $1 billion highway improvement project that involves constructing a northbound carpool lane and reconstructing the Mulholland Bridge.

Officials have been grave about the prospect of misery ahead. "There's gridlock on the 405 virtually any time of the day, but particularly during the rush hour, and if you think it's bad now, let me just make something absolutely clear: On July 16 and 17, it will be an absolute nightmare," LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a recent press conference.

But on Wednesday, Yaroslavsky was more upbeat. "Now it's up to the people," he said, adding: "I have confidence in Los Angeles motorists."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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