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Carmageddon weekend hurt local businesses

July 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles braced for epic traffic jams on the so-called Carmageddon weekend, but the gridlock never materialized. On Monday, one of the nation's busiest freeways was back to normal.

Caltrans officials said the Monday morning commute was business as usual.

Construction finished Sunday afternoon, allowing the 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway between the 101 and 10 freeways to reopen 17 hours ahead of schedule.

"It didn't turn out the way I thought it would," said Paul Carr of Sherman Oaks. "My guess is, everybody heard the news and took the advice to not travel is they didn't have to."

The freeway was closed while crews dismantled the south side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge.

Officials said crews removed a total of 4,000 tons of rubble. A time lapse video shows the entire project.

Once workers were done knocking down two massive pillars, they cleaned up the debris and removed the road closure signs.

Just after noon on Sunday, the California Highway Patrol escorted the first group of vehicles through the Sepulveda Pass from the southbound 405 Freeway.

"I'm ecstatic that it's done, and it's done ahead of time," said Farhad Novian of Beverly Hills. "I can't believe it. They scared everybody into hiding or going out of town, and we're open again."

But Los Angeles officials say it's not over yet - the closure was just round 1.

"Importantly, it was a dry run for next time. An opportunity for us to realize that, you know what, there's life after the addiction that we have to the single-passenger automobile," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Officials said that during the closure, there were 65 percent fewer automobiles on freeways in the Los Angeles-Metro area compared to normal weekend traffic.

Completing the project early means a $300,000 bonus for the contractors. Even though they're paying out that bonus, it still saves the project $400,000 because it would have cost nearly $1 million to keep those workers for an additional 12-hour shift.

Carmageddon weekend hurt local businesses

Several local business owners said they're glad Carmageddon is over because they lost money over the weekend since people heeded the warnings and stayed off the streets.

Vivian Vu from the Nail Shop on Ventura Boulevard said the weekend is normally the busiest time of the week, but she saw a third less walk-in customers during Carmageddon weekend.

La Frite predicted the downturn in business and advertised specials to attract customers.

"We were giving away free bloody Marys, which we'll probably be doing next year for Carmageddon also," said Gayle, manager of La Frite.

But the restaurant that usually has a busy brunch on weekends still took a hit.

"It was down 50 percent," Gayle said.

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