People driving under the Mulholland Bridge at noon Sunday honked their car horns to celebrate the 405 Freeway reopening and the end of "Carmageddon." The freeway opened 17 hours ahead of schedule.
“Carmageddon, shmarmageddon,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who popularized the apocalyptic-sounding nickname, said at a news conference announcing the reopening.
The entire freeway is scheduled to reopen by 3 p.m. The main lines will be opened first, followed by connectors and off-ramps. On-ramps will be last.
The city of Los Angeles will save $400,000 and the project contractors, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and Penhall Co., will share a bonus of $300,000 for avoiding another 12-hour shift.
A visibly pleased Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa credited a strong construction team for the rapid turnaround.
He also thanked Angelenos for making an effort to stay off the road in the "car capital of America."
“Not enough is said about the people of Los Angeles, when they come together, when they decide we all have to work together to make something,” Villaraigosa said.
Car traffic was very light all weekend, with ridership on bus and subway lines doubling in some places, said Aram Sahakian, an engineer with the Department of Transportation and a member of the emergency response team.
A procession led by the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Fire Department officially capped off what Yaroslavsky called an "anticlimactic" weekend. Dire warnings of the closure have sounded for months, with an acceleration in press coverage leading up to the event.
"[The news coverage] overshadowed our radio communication at times with the helicopters, but we dealt with it," said Penhall construction worker Drew Erickson. "Our crews worked safely and they got done what they needed to get done."
This is only the beginning of the freeway-widening project, which will be implemented over the next two years. The $1 billion project will add a northbound carpool lane to help ease congestion on the 405. Delays will be a regular part of driving in that time, said Deputy LAPD Chief Kirk Albanese.
But the end goal, officials say, is the greater good.
"The sacrifices now will have dividends in the future," Villaraigosa said, adding that 18,000 jobs are being created as a result of the project.
The impact of the weekend’s closure on local business is yet to be determined. Angelenos were encouraged to shop local, but it is likely that some businesses and venues took hits economically with fewer people making trips.
The Coliseum, for example, reportedly had a lower turnout than expected for the soccer match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Madrid on Saturday night.
In the Pacific Palisades, residents said the closure was actually an enjoyable experience.
"I would prefer to keep the freeway closed as long as possible because I'm enjoying the quiet," said Michele Baron.
In other areas closer to the freeway, however, residents complained of the constant drone of news helicopters capturing footage of the closure.
The city will have to do this again in 11 months when it demolishes the other side of the Mulholland Bridge.