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’Ramp Jam’ Is Los Angeles’s Latest Freeway ’Fright Fest’

Fri July 13, 2012 - West Edition

LOS ANGELES (AP) Some are calling it the “Rampture,” others “Ramp Jam.” But there’s no disagreement that Los Angeles’ next big freeway shutdown will be a long and serious headache.

Saturday drivers in west Los Angeles will be the first to feel the effects of the project, in which eight ramps connecting Wilshire Boulevard and Interstate 405 — one of the nation’s busiest streets and one of its busiest freeways — will be demolished and rebuilt.

The major shutdown is the next phase of the Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and one of several this summer that could make for an especially rough season for Los Angeles area travelers, commuters and tourists.

Work crews began the planned 90-day shutdown of the first two ramps, connecting westbound Wilshire and northbound I-405, late June 22, with the rest closing in phases in the coming months.

“There’s no end to the misery after 90 days,” Dave Sotero, a spokesman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told the Los Angeles Times. “It continues.”

Weather and other conditions permitting, work will continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the project is finished.

“There is no way of sugar-coating it: there will be significant traffic impacts,” wrote Steve Hymon on the official MTA blog.

Even on a normal day, the ramps represent one of the worst traffic grinds in the region and a spot of frequent accidents.

“The status quo in the area has been pretty much horrible for as long as I can recall — way too many cars competing for space while trying to enter and exit the freeway,” Hymon said. “The reconstruction of the ramps should greatly improve the way that traffic flows in the area, but there’s no getting around the pain that ramp reconstruction will inevitably cause.”

“Ramp Jam” is considerably smaller in size than last summer’s so-called “Carmageddon,” which saw the shutdown of the entire 405 while part of a bridge was torn down. But while the “Carmageddon” lasted just a weekend, this one will take up to a year, and its long-term effects are bound to be far greater.

Transit officials are following the approach that made “Carmageddon” a major success — flooding the public with warnings and reminders, urging drivers to find alternate routes and ride-sharing opportunities and assuring them that it will all be well worth it once the project is finished.

Southern California drivers, including some famous ones, have joined in, warning fellow motorists on social media about the troubled spot.

“LA west side drivers — remember that the Wilshire ramps off the 405 are closing tomorrow,” actor William Shatner tweeted June 22.

Like “Carmageddon,” officials used over-the-top Biblical references in the run-up to the project, dubbing it the “Rampture.” But as the project grew closer, the less menacing “Ramp Jam” came into use.

Both projects are part of a $1 billion overhaul of a 10-mi. (16 km) stretch of Interstate 405 through the Sepulveda Pass that will end with the construction of a high-occupancy vehicle lane on the freeway’s northbound side.

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