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Carmageddon: 405 Freeway Opening Today

405 Freeway

First Posted: 07/17/11 12:42 PM ET Updated: 09/16/11 06:12 AM ET

The Mulholland Bridge demolition is completed ahead of schedule, reports the Associated Press. That's why officials have just announced that the 405 freeway will now be opening much earlier than expected -- ABC 7 reports in a tweet that Caltrans and CHP plan to re-open the 405 freeway between 11am and 3pm today.

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Photo by Donna Estes Antebi, courtesy of Stephen Estes (Flickr).

23 year-old Stephen Alan Estes was one of the first Angelenos to get back onto the 405 freeway when it re-opened this morning. Driving with his mother, Estes popped out of the car, laid down on the highway in the "planking" position, and got this picture on the 405 freeway near the Sunset on-ramp.

His flickr account explains, "I just planked LA's 405 freeway between Sunset and Wilshire during the last minutes of Carmageddon! Police were roaring up the other side of the freeway, and I just slapped a Vitagasm patch on my arm and went for it. Such an opportunity might not come again for years!"

Estes told the LA Times, "I guess I’m going to have to top this one. I guess I’ll have to find the next Carmageddon." But Estes is looking beyond next year, when the second half of the bridge is set to be demolished. "It won’t be unique then. This is my official debut."

Planking is the act of lying face down in a public place, optimally somewhere that no one has ever "planked" before. And of course, as with all great feats, pics or it didn't happen. Check out this video of planking all over Los Angeles landmarks and help Estes come up with his next location!

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HuffPost commenter msjimmied praises Angelenos and LA's officials:

Went without a hitch really, people had fun with races against JetBlue, got acquainted with their Metro rail, stayed home and chilled or found a way around it. Employers rearranged schedules, no biggie really. It wasn't carmageddo­n, it was an illustrati­on of people working together around an obstacle and having fun with it. We're not a nation of whiners, we're a nation of doers. Great job Caltrans!

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LA is getting some heat about hyping a non-event, but HuffPost commenter cybolt points out:

For those questionin­g all the "Henny Penny" hubbub leading up to the closure… the stuff about the hardships of business owners etc was waaaaay over the top and unnecessar­y. It’s a blip.

But the repeated warnings about a potential traffic meltdown were well-warra­nted (and apparently­, quite effective)­. The section of the 405 closed for constructi­on connects to the 101 in the north and the 10 to the south. According to Forbes magazine..­.

1. The 405 is the busiest freeway in the US. 2. The 405/101 is the busiest interchang­e in the US.

3. The 405/10 is the fifth worst interchang­e in the US.

Yes, other cities have infamous stretches of busy/bad bottleneck­s. But inarguably­, the work being done this weekend affected the worst of the worst. And the prospect of having that much traffic diverted elsewhere certainly had the potential to create a nightmaris­h gridlock.

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Via Patch liveblog: The Hollywood Reporter points out that the weekend-long highway closure contributed to the "Harry Potter" film's mega opening weekend.

ArcLight Sherman Oaks raked in $256,000 for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2" on Friday and Saturday. From THR: "Business was so good that ArcLight Sherman Oaks was No. 8 on the list of top grossing theaters nationwide."

Overall, the film brought in an estimated $168 million and broke the record for biggest ever opening weekend, reports Forbes.

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CBS is reporting that the California Highway Patrol saw a major reduction in traffic accidents over the weekend: "California Highway Patrol handled 70 accidents between 10 p.m. Friday and 2:30 a.m. Sunday, compared to 160 during the same period the previous week."

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From the Associated Press:

Many mocked the frenzied language surrounding the closure, especially on Twitter, where Hollywood's comedians had at their hometown.

"How's everyone coping with this terrifying apocalyptic nightmare of having to ... oh my god ... stay home with your family?!!!" Bill Maher wrote.

Albert Brooks took was more philosophical in his Tweet: "If we would close the freeways every weekend we would have a great society."

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So did Los Angeles learn anything new from Carmageddon weekend? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during the press conference, "I think that this weekend people have learned that leaving the home, leaving the neighborhood, has caused them to be cheated." He also praised the stories coming out about community members organizing local events, meeting neighbors, and enjoying the city on public transit.

Pacific Palisades resident Michele Baron told Patch that she "would prefer to keep the freeway closed as long as possible because I'm enjoying the quiet."

Michele Cohn from Bel-Air told the LA Times that the closure transformed Los Angeles into a "small town" and said, "Its amazing; I love it. I wish it were like this all the time.... Let's just have this once a month."

@metrolosangeles retweeted:

@ ElimProcess : If the #405 closure taught us anything, it was that we do not need cars to get around. We need a better transit system @metrolosangeles

@Nettey128 cues the sad trombone noise:

@ Nettey128 : 405 is reopening today...not tomorrow. Now the real #carmageddon shall happen.

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Patch liveblog reports that "A parade of motorcycles, cars and trucks representing several of the agencies involved in the 405 closure just drove southbound on the 405 and under the Mulholland bridge."

AP photo by Reed Saxon

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Schedule for on-ramp re-openings:

@ I_405 : SU-ALL: NB on-ramps will open in this order: Cotner, Santa Monica, Wilshire, Sunset, Moraga, Getty Center. #405Official

@ I_405 : SU-ALL: SB ramps will open in this order: Ventura, Valley Vista, Skirball. Will occur at same time as northbound openings. #405Official

@ I_405 : SU-ALL: NB Skirball on and off-ramps will remain closed until 3:00pm. #405Official

And last but not least:

@ I_405 : SU-ALL: Connector ramps from 10 and 101 will open last. #405Official

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Because the closure is ending early, Los Angeles is saving $400,000 on construction costs. Kiewit is receiving $300,000 as a financial incentive.

A project manager at the presser also said that Kiewit is the very same company that built the Mulholland Bridge in the 1960s. Cool!

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Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Yaroslavsky compare the size of their Mulholland Bridge mementos. AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Marveling at the overall effect "Carmageddon" had on the entire city, Zev Yaroslavsky joked, "maybe we'll do it every year!" He was met with silence, then groans at the presser, but Villaraigosa echoed his sentiment. "I like the idea of us taking a time-out once a year," the mayor said. "I love the stories that some of you have chronicled, of people going to a neighborhood restaurant, going to a coffee shop, talking with their neighbors, having family dinners, or barbeques that they might not otherwise have done in the rat race that we live in from time to time, with our over-dependence on the automobile."

We're definitely doing this again next summer, when crews demolish the second half of the bridge. But do you think Los Angeles has learned a little something about taking time off from their cars to enjoy the weekend locally or via public transit?

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More than 17 hours ahead of schedule, the 405 freeway is set to open at 11:30 a.m.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gives props to Angelenos, people who are stereotyped as the most "addicted" to the single-occupancy vehicle: "Not enough is said about the people of Los Angeles, when they come together, when they decide that we all have to work together to make something work. I'm proud of this effort, I'm proud of what the people have been able to do."

He also points out that the 24-hour media cycle is responsible for some good (for once!): "In these times when people criticize the 24/7 media market that we have, the fact is that without the tremendous effort on their part to get the message out, this day would not have come -- at least not this early."

You're welcome, Mayor.

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So much for the re-scheduled presser. We're pretty much starting at 11 a.m., the originally re-scheduled time. Live broadcast here at NBC LA.

@ BrandonMillman : We are, once again, most definitely on VST (Villaraigosa Standard Time).

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Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. looks set to earn extra money now that the 405 freeway is opening ahead of schedule.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while the exact amount of the financial incentive isn't known, Mike Barbour of Metro assures that it's a small amount. “By us opening early, that far outweighs any money spent,” said Barbour.

The company faced fines of $6,000 for every 10 minutes the demolition and clean up went beyond the Monday, July 18 deadline of 5 a.m.

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Videographer, photographer, and bicycle enthusiast Richie Thomassen filmed Wolfpack Hustle's triumphant ride-race against JetBlue, and he spoke with the HuffPost on the challenges of keeping up with the group:

"It was really hard to stay with them to film them. It was borderline impossible because they were so fast. They're going 30 miles per hour or more on the bike path and you're trying to take streets... just to see if you can hopefully can get in front of them. Those guys are well-oiled wolfpack machines."

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Video coming soon. For more photos, check out Wolfpack Hustle on Facebook.

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@ metrolosangeles : Mayor's press conference at 405 site has been changed to 10:30 a.m.

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The Los Angeles Times points out that there were no major arrests or incidents last night. And since the predicted epic traffic levels never materialized, emergency response times "have been between one and four minutes."

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@ oliviawilde : Carmageddon rules. http://t.co/o21GuC1

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Caltrans and CHP are announcing that the 405 freeway is opening way ahead of the projected Monday, 5 a.m. deadline, but the mayor's office still cautions that "things are still fluid."

More to come from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at an 11 a.m. press conference, which had been moved up from the originally scheduled 5 p.m. time.

It looks like Carmageddon isn't turning out to be the end of Los Angeles as we know it. Department of Transportation engineer Aram Sahakian said to Patch Brentwood, "We didn’t have a crystal ball to see what’s coming our way... We prepared for the worst case scenario, period."

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Filed by Anna Almendrala  |