Jinah Kim and David Gregory
LA's Carmageddon has come and gone. After weeks of talks and suggestions that freeways and canyon roads and side streets would be tied up in a nightmarish traffic jam, the 10-mile closure of a stretch of the 405 Freeway from West LA to the San Fernando Valley turned out to be more CarmaHeaven than Carmageddon.
The joyful re-opening of the 405 Freeway on Sunday -- a day ahead of schedule -- came after months of hang-wringing and a frenzied ramp-up fraught with warnings of unprecedented gridlock.
Those concerns turned out to be unfounded.
Publicity surrounding the shutdown, which began Friday evening and which was commonly known as Carmageddon, was sufficient to keep motorists away.
Saturday traffic was light throughout the city -- more like "CarmaHeaven"-- and Los Angeles residents awoke Sunday to the news that the freeway would soon re-open.
"Mission accomplished, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told residents at a morning news conference. "We will open up this freeway as soon as possible. It looks like 11:30 a.m. is the time."
Fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles passed under the bridge about 11:47 a.m., letting out celebratory honks and sirens as part of an apparent victory lap. The first public vehicles followed shortly after noon.
And so Carmageddon went out with a cheer, 16-17 hours ahead of schedule.
"A lot is said that this is the car capital of the United States of America, the congestion capital, the city most addicted to the single-passenger automobile," Villaraigosa said.
"But not enough is said about the people of Los Angeles when they come together ... to make something work," said the mayor.
"I'm proud of this effort. I'm proud of what the people have been able to do," he said. "Without their cooperation, I would not be able to make this announcement.
The early completion saved $700,000, with $300,000 of that going to the prime contractor, Kiewit, as a bonus and $400,000 considered savings to the taxpayers.
"Carmageddon, schmarmageddon," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
"Seriously, this has been a great weekend for Los Angeles. It goes to show what you can do when we all get together in common cause," he said.
"Let's do it again 11 months from now," Yaroslavsky said.
The freeway, which was shut down in stages beginning Friday evening, was expected to remain closed until early Monday morning.
Media outlets and civic leaders alerted residents and travelers to the closure and warned motorists to stay off the roadways to avoid major gridlock. Electronic alerts were posted on freeways throughout California and in Oregon, Nevada and other states.
The second phase of the project is scheduled for next summer.
July 17, 2011: First pic of cars passing under the Mulholland Bridge. Carmageddon is officially over.
Correction: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the savings resulting from the early completion. The total amount saved is estimated to be $700,000. After the $300,000 bonus for the prime contractor, Kiewit, the city and county estimate a project savings of $400,000. It is unclear how much of that bonus will be shared with the subcontractor.