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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

In Los Angeles, the car crisis came and passed over the weekend. A major interstate freeway that was closed for construction has reopened. Fearing traffic jams of epic proportions, many drivers stayed off the roads. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, cars were back on the I-405 a day ahead of schedule.

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MANDALIT DEL BARCO: At high noon Sunday, the first cars and motorcycles of the weekend drove, honking and cheering, through a stretch of the 405 freeway that was completely closed midnight Friday. It was originally to be reopened this morning, but construction crews finished demolishing a bridge to make way for a new car pool lane 17 hours earlier than expected.

Mr. ZEV YAROSLAVSKY (County supervisor, Los Angeles): Carmageddon schmarmageddon.

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DEL BARCO: L.A. County Supervisor Zev�Yaroslavsky had coined the term Carmageddon to warn Angelenos of possible traffic nightmares due to the freeway closure. But many of the streets and freeways were blissfully empty much of the weekend.

Mr. YAROSLAVSKY: A lot of people in Los Angeles have learned you can get along without taking long rides in your cars on weekends this past couple of days.

DEL BARCO: Mayor Antonio Villaraigossa said the early reopen saved Los Angeles $400,000 in construction costs. He thanked L.A. drivers for cooperating.

Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSSA (Los Angeles): The people of this town didnt get in their cars, they stayed home or walked to wherever they wanted to go in their neighborhood, and as a result, this has gone much better than anybody could have imagined.

DEL BARCO: Police and Fire crews had been poised to respond to any emergency caused by the closure, but the only incidents that happened were minor, says L.A. police chief Charlie Beck.�

Mr. CHARLIE BECK (Police chief, Los Angeles Police Department): A couple of cyclists, a jogger and maybe a skateboarder or two. I think there may have been a total of eight. Just people that were overly curious and�wanted to trespass on the freeway.

DEL BARCO: Before the 405 reopened, Mark Kramer brought his baby boy�and took photos of the empty freeway.

Mr. MARK KRAMER: It just being so quiet, it really is surreal.

DEL BARCO: Amy Haim, her husband and two young daughters watched the construction crews finish up, too.

Ms. AMY HAIM: They did a great job. I mean, look, we can follow directions. Angelenos, we stayed out of way and it was great. I mean, who doesn't want to zip around L.A. with no traffic and everyone's in a good mood. I thought it was fabulous.

DEL BARCO: Around the city, some people took public transportation and celebrated the event with Carmageddon parties.

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Unidentified Man #2: All right, West Hills, Culver City, we're having a tailgate party here at center court.

DEL BARCO: Jet Blue took passengers like Ezra Horn�from Burbank to Long Beach on�flights that cost just $4.

Mr. EZRA HORN: The pilot told us the flight would be 22 minutes, but he was going to try and do it in 14. He ended up doing it in 12. And if you look at the flight path, he actually flew in an S shape to fly the whole plane over the 405 freeway to give everybody an eye full of the empty freeways.

DEL BARCO: On Saturday, five bicyclists calling themselves Wolfpack Hustle even raced against the plane. They rode for nearly 39 miles,�mostly on bike paths along the L.A. river. One of the cyclists, actor John Budnoff, says they started out from North Hollywood when Horn left for the airport, at 10:50 AM.

Mr. JOHN BUDNOFF (Actor): So Wolfpack got there at 12:24 and the plane landed at 12:51. Whoops.

Unidentified Man #3: Whoops.

Mr. BUDNOFF: Whoops. We just annihilated them so bad.�

DEL BARCO: Budnoff and his teammates say they wanted to prove that cycling in L.A. is definitely a viable means of transportation. And many Angelenos said they wish the freeway was closed like this every weekend. They'll get another chance to try beating Carmageddon in 11 months, when the 405 freeway closes again to finish the construction project.�

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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KELLY: This is NPR News.

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