I-405's Closure Will Be A 'Nightmare' For L.A. Drivers

Southern Californians are calling it "Carpocalypse" and "Carmagaddon." This weekend, Interstate 405 in Los Angeles will shut down completely for construction. The closure is causing a certain amount of panic.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Los Angeles is bracing for its own kind of gridlock this weekend. Part of a major interstate highway is shutting down for construction. NPR's Mandalit del Barco�reports that the temporary closure is causing panic in car-loving L.A.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: L.A.'s 405 freeway is a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam every day at rush hour. But L.A. officials have a new nickname for the traffic snarls they envision this weekend.

Unidentified Man: They're calling this Carmageddon.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: Yes, Carmageddon, a name taken from a graphically violent video game inspired by the cult movie "Death Race 2000." L.A. County supervisor Zev Yarovsavsky coined the term for what essentially will be a widening of the road.

Mr. ZEV YAROVSAVSKY (L.A. County Supervisor): The best alternative route is to totally avoid the 405 area, completely avoid it, don't come anywhere near it, don't even think about coming to it, stay the heck out of here.

DEL BARCO: Construction crews are dismantling a bridge and adding a carpool lane. That means from midnight Friday till 5:00 a.m. Monday, a 10-mile stretch of the 405 will be closed.

Even L.A.'s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is worried.

Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOA (Democrat, Los Angeles): It will be an absolute nightmare.

DEL BARCO: For weeks now, electronic billboards have been warning drivers of impending doom. If that wasn't enough, officials have asked Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga to tweet about the shutdown.

Mr. ERIC ESTRADA (Actor): Hola, soy Eric Estrada.

DEL BARCO: The star of the old TV show "CHiPs" is delivering the message in Spanish and in English.

Mr. ESTRADA: Hi. I'm Eric Estrada, and I'm here with real motorcycle police officers. Plan ahead, avoid the area, or just stay home.

DEL BARCO: Extra police, fire and rescue crews plan to patrol the areas around the freeway shutdown. Some churches are cancelling services, and places like the Getty Museum are closing down for the weekend.

Dalia Franco and her fiance Moche Shmuel say this was not part of the plans they made more than a year ago.

Ms. DALIA FRANCO: My mom told us...

Mr. MOCHE SHMUEL: Yeah.

Ms. FRANCO: ...over dinner, don't freak out, I have news to tell you: The 405 will be closed the weekend of our wedding.

Mr. SHMUEL: And we freaked out.

Ms. FRANCO: And then we freaked out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHMUEL: And then we notified our guests and tried to find any solution to this Carmageddon.

Ms. FRANCO: We even thought about postponing the wedding.

DEL BARCO: Their wedding's still on in Bel Air, but the couple is advising guests to arrive hours early. To try and avoid the gridlock, they can navigate the side streets in real time using a free app created for a campaign called Carmageddon Resistance. One satellite radio station is devoting itself to Carmageddon programming, and the city of L.A. is offering free bus and subway rides.

While some businesses worry about losing customers this weekend, others see it as an opportunity.

Ms. KIM CURRY: We have ended up serving as a complete one stop shop hub, you're official 405 survival guide.

DEL BARCO: Santa Monica residents Anastasia Roark, Kim Curry and two friends created T-shirts, a website, Facebook and Twitter page for Carmageddon.com.

Ms. CURRY: We've had listings for everything from discount helicopter rides to discounted tattoos, doggie grooming, yoga specials, you name it.

DEL BARCO: Carmageddon.com also posted a YouTube video starring cartoon bears.

Ms. CURRY: It will be mayhem. You might as well stay home.

Unidentified Man: But how will I get to the places I need to be?

Ms. CURRY: You won't.

Unidentified Man: I have a Toyota Prius.

Ms. CURRY: Carmageddon doesn't care about your Prius.

Unidentified Man: But I have an audition in Burbank.

Ms. CURRY: I don't care. You need to chill out. You have legs and although they are short, you can walk around.

DEL BARCO: But If L.A. residents do have to drive this weekend anywhere near the 405, stress release specialist Sharon Jakubecy has some tips for staying calm.

Ms. SHARON JAKUBECY (Stress Relief Specialist): Please do not white knuckle the steering wheel.

DEL BARCO: Sit up straight, she says, and breathe.

Mr. JAKUBECY: It's called the whispered ah.

(Soundbite of breathing)

DEL BARCO: Try humming, singing, or fluttering your lips.

Ms. JAKUBECY: It actually slows your breath rate.

(Soundbite of fluttering lips)

Ms. JAKUBECY: And you can't help but laugh.

DEL BARCO: Because a sense of humor is one of the best things to have in your Carmageddon survival kit. Mandalit del Barco...

(Soundbite of fluttering lips)

DEL BARCO: ...NPR News.

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