More traffic than last year was observed Friday night as the freeway gradually closed. Overnight, mounds of dirt will be moved onto the freeway to provide a 4-foot cushion to protect the freeway during the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge. Some 4 million pounds of concrete are expected to fall.
Freeway ramps began closing at 7 p.m. At 10 p.m., crews started closing lanes on the freeway, and it will be completely closed by midnight. Officials hope to reopen the freeway by 5 a.m. Monday, with ramps reopening at 6 a.m., in time for the morning commute. If construction is not completed by then, a late penalty of about $360,000 will be charged to crews every hour.
The closure is necessary for the second phase of the demolition of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. It's part of the $1-billion Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, which adds a 10-mile northbound carpool lane.
Last year, drivers heeded warnings to stay off the roads and officials hope drivers will do the same again this year.
"Do not be complacent this weekend. Just because it went well last year, does not mean it will go well this year," said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero. "The successful operation last year, the main reason that was a success was because we had the public's cooperation."
There are several shortcuts through the valley and the Westside, including La Cienega Boulevard to the north and south. Sawtelle Boulevard also runs parallel to the 405 Freeway, but it ends in Westwood. The most popular and busiest will probably be Sepulveda Boulevard. The best way to get from the valley to the beaches is Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
In the valley, Burbank Boulevard is a good alternative to the 101 Freeway. Balboa Boulevard will get you from the 101 Freeway to the 118 Freeway, and Coldwater Canyon Boulevard will get you over the hill from the valley into the Westside.
Officials suggest that people traveling to and from Los Angeles International Airport use public transit and plan for longer travel times. Using the LAX FlyAway Bus is one option. Those still planning to drive to LAX can use Sepulveda and Lincoln boulevards.
First responders have been preparing for Carmageddon 2 for months. The L.A. City Fire Department will have an additional 200 firefighters on duty staged on both sides of the hill, along with 13 extra fire engines.
Another heat wave is moving in this weekend, posing a fire danger, but crews say they're ready for brush fires in the area.
"Because we have so many resources in that immediate area, we are ready to respond even more so than on a regular day," said L.A. City Fire Capt. Alicia Mathison.
The L.A. City Fire Department will deploy five first responders on motorcycles to navigate traffic and get to emergencies quickly.
In addition, city leaders are urging people to eat, shop and play locally. Some restaurants are even offering Carmageddon 2 deals over the weekend.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, city officials urged drivers to make alternate plans this weekend that do not involve driving.
"Carmageddon 2 will be a hit sequel," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "This weekend, lets take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a car-free weekend. Last year was only a success because people heeded our warning and stayed off the roads."
Those plans should also include staying off city roads. L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky emphasized the importance of reducing the number of cars on city streets.
"There are half-a-million cars a day that travel the 405 Freeway," he said. "The streets around the 405 do not have the capacity to absorb a half-a-million cars."
MTA board official Richard Katz also touted a Carmageddon 2 weekend offer to keep people out of their vehicles, which includes a $10 weekend pass from Metrolink that allows commuters to ride the trains as many times as they like between Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties.
An exclusive Eyewitness News poll on Thursday revealed 78 percent of drivers have not changed their plans in anticipation of Carmageddon 2. Only 20 percent have and 2 percent of drivers were not yet sure of their plans.