Operations

Los Angeles Operators Prepare For Crippling Freeway Shutdown

Posted on July 13, 2011

From midnight of Friday, July 16 until (hopefully) 5 a.m. on Monday, July 18, a 10-mile section of a major Los Angeles traffic artery will close for construction, causing gridlock concerns and hampering transfers to and from LAX.

LOS ANGELES — Interstate 405, also called the San Diego Freeway, is the main artery for thousands of commuters traveling through greater Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It bisects a mountain range in north Los Angeles to connect the dozens of suburbs and cities in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles basin. At its widest, it spans six lanes on both sides, but perennial congestion earns it the nickname of the region’s largest parking lot.

While Angelenos are no strangers to traffic jams — you can spot a stagnant sea of brake lights on any given day — things may be much worse this weekend when 10 miles of freeway will be closed through the vital Sepulveda Pass, between the 10 and 101 freeways, for the demolition of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. Local media has hysterically dubbed the event "Carmageddon," and because it is L.A., at least one company is offering VIP helicopter tours of the Sepulveda Pass area from above.

The reason for the closure is the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge, which passes over the 405.

The reason for the closure is the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge, which passes over the 405.

Chauffeured transportation operators, however, still have to conduct at least a certain amount of business, since their 24/7 operations undoubtedly will be handling clients heading into and out of LAX from throughout the region.

"I have a client who said he's had this meeting planned since last year and there's no way he can miss it," said Brandan Stein, COO of North Hollywood's Exclusive Sedan Service. "We've informed all of our clients and affiliates about the delays and potential of what can happen, and our Livery Coach system is set up so that if anyone books a ride for this weekend, they receive an auto-response to inform them about 'Carmageddon.'"
 
Stein said his chauffeurs have been briefed on what to expect and know the alternate routes. "Most of our guys have GPS, and the dispatcher will be logged-in to SigAlert to check the best routes."

Operators anticipate heavy traffic around the Los Angeles Airport area and advise clients to be picked up 5-6 hours before their flight.

Operators anticipate heavy traffic around the Los Angeles Airport area and advise clients to be picked up 5-6 hours before their flight.

City officials have urged residents to plan ahead for their trips, and either leave before the closure or do their best to stay at home and avoid travelling this weekend. Warning messages have been set up all over the freeway, Los Angeles celebrities have echoed the advice for residents to stay home by reaching out to fans through social media, and the media has been steadily reporting on it. Officials expect surface roads, canyon roads, and local neighborhood streets to be congested as motorists use them as alternatives. But for many folks, including business travellers and those who transport them, staying at home is not an option.

 

 

Noune Bagdasarian is the general manager of West Los Angeles-based KLS Limousine Service and in charge of planning the logistics for the freeway closure.

"We're letting the drivers who live in the Westside take cars home with them so we can dispatch from there, and that helps us avoid having to have drivers come in from Burbank and the [San Fernando] Valley to do a pick up at LAX," she said.
 
"Also, we're urging clients to use the Burbank airport instead, but if they do use LAX and are coming from the Valley, we're charging garage-to-garage and advising them to schedule pick-ups five to six hours ahead of time. Everyone else will be taking all the known alternate routes, like the canyon roads, the 101 [freeway]. It'll be chaos and there's really not much anyone can do."

The Sepulveda Pass connects the Los Angeles Basin with the San Fernando Valley and is a crucial route for thousands of commuters.

The Sepulveda Pass connects the Los Angeles Basin with the San Fernando Valley and is a crucial route for thousands of commuters.


 

Bagdasarian has also advised clients to stay in hotels close to the airport.
 
Limousine Connection's Chris Hundley has done the same. "I said, 'let's take you to an airport Friday night, stay in the hotel, and take the shuttle to the airport for your flight. We're not sure if it'll take one or six hours to get to LAX, and who needs that stress? Go to the airport the night before.' Some are going to do that," he said.
 
Hundley said everyone on his team is versed on the alternative routes, and he has cars strategically staged in different areas to make sure they're on time to pick up their clients. "If it takes a couple hours longer to get to the airport, well, that's not your fault," he said. "But we have to make sure we get to the client on time."
 
He said there is no magic route that nobody knows about, and one of the alternatives he plans to avoid is the Pacific Coast Highway, because he expects that to be one of the first alternates to be gridlocked. But despite all the logistical headaches, Hundley remains positive, and explained that this weekend could very well benefit from what he called the "Olympics Effect."
 
When the 1984 Olympics came to L.A., the media blasted out messages for residents to avoid unnecessary driving in the area because of gridlock and other traffic nightmares. "I drove [during the L.A. Olympics], and it was the best traffic ever because [city officials] scared everyone into submission," Hundley recalls. "I'm hoping they will have scared enough people into submission this time so that it won't truly be 'Carmageddon' traffic."
 

Pacific Coast Highway is expected to gridlock quickly since it's the main alternative route for many motorists.

Pacific Coast Highway is expected to gridlock quickly since it's the main alternative route for many motorists.

Stein shares Hundley's optimism. "At the end of the day, it’s a weekend, and we're hoping that no one's really travelling," Stein said. "We're hoping for the best and ready for the worst. Our chauffeurs are ready."

For an interactive graphic of the potential traffic jams this weekend, click here.

—    Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor

 

Related Topics: California operators, construction, logistics, special events, traffic assessment, traffic jams

Comments ( 1 )
  •  | about 9 years ago

    I would hate to be in a car headed to Santa Barbara on this weekend, If any of your clients who are flying in to LAX have elected to fly on to Santa Barbara and you need to secure transportation them, please remember Hecker Transportation LLC we are based in Santa Barbara near the airport and will be happy to help, help your clients. Call us at 800-939-5466 ext 1

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