The 405 Shutdown: Preparing For The Worst

A 10-mile section of California's Interstate 405 closed Friday night for construction. Host Scott Simon talks with KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermak about the shutdown and the impact on the surrounding community.

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SCOTT SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. A 10-mile stretch of California's 405 freeway is closed to traffic this weekend as part of a road widening project. The Sepulveda Pass, as it's known, is a major artery for people heading to and from the Los Angeles International Airport. And on a typical summer weekend, about half a million vehicles traverse it. So with a shutdown lasting through early Monday morning, some are referring to the expected traffic tie-ups as Carmageddon. We're joined now live with by Kajon Cermak, a traffic reporter for NPR member station KCRW in Santa Monica. Kajon, thanks so much for being with us.

KAJON CERMAK: Good morning, Scott. Thank you so muchs for having me.

HOST: How's it going so far?

CERMAK: Well, you know, the freeways are starting to get a little bit busy. They're still moving. The alternates are moving. The freeways are moving. But our big concern right now - there's a big soccer match at the Coliseum this afternoon. They're expecting 100,000 people and we think we are going to see significant effects in about an hour.

HOST: Remind us why they shut down the entire section of 405 instead of just a lane or two for construction?

CERMAK: Well, two reasons. The Mulholland Bridge needs to be torn down first. And then the other reason, the closure extends for 10 miles. That's because they need that area for potential evacuations in case there was - well, you know, God forbid, a catastrophic event.

HOST: On occasion, lots of places have made contingency plans, haven't they? I mean, including hospitals, particularly emergency rooms. What's some of the planning going on there?

CERMAK: Well, UCLA Medical Center actually secured 600 dorm rooms for their hospital staff. We even have - this is kind of funny. The local Farmer's Markets here, we have a host a farmer in your driveway program. Metro, subways and bus rides, they're free. We have a lot of buses that were added. Fire trucks, paramedics, air ambulances. All are on standby right now. Carmageddon, it's the summer's biggest blockbuster. Literally, there could be blocks and blocks of bumper-to-bumper traffic, Scott.

HOST: Well...


HOST: ...I envy you the experience.


HOST: What happens on Monday, if the construction isn't done?

CERMAK: Well, that is the big concern here right now. Let me say this, though. The contractors will be fined $6,000 for every 10 minutes if they past their 5 AM deadline. They have 53 hours and the clock is ticking. If it isn't finished, no one's going to be able to get to work, and, well, Los Angeles will have its very first snow day.

HOST: Kajon Cermak, traffic reporter for NPR member station KCRW in Santa Monica. Thanks so much.

CERMAK: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you, and wish us luck.

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