Saturday 14 December 2019

LA braced for weekend 'carmageddon'

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

In the movies it has been hit by meteors and attacked by aliens, but now Los Angeles is preparing for what officials are describing as a real-life "carmageddon".

A temporary closure of America's busiest road intersection, for 53 hours this weekend, is expected to bring unprecedented gridlock to a city.

Despite the impending chaos, few plan to walk, and many are taking to the skies instead. Cut-price $150 (€105) helicopter taxis are being booked to get commuters to Los Angeles International Airport, and airlines are running "planepool" flights between airports in the north and south of the city.

Hundreds of plane tickets were offered at $4 (€2.82) and sold out in hours.

More than 500,000 vehicles battle their way along the Interstate 405 highway each weekend and it serves as an artery between the city and the sprawling suburban San Fernando Valley to the north.

Mike Miles of the California department of transportation said traffic could be backed up for 64 miles.

He said: "Even if we get the message out to half the people that still means 250,000 people are going to try to use that road." The reason for the closure of a 10-mile stretch, in an area known as the Sepulveda Pass, is to allow the demolition of a bridge as part of a $1bn (€706m) project to widen the freeway.

The road skirts the suburbs of Bel-Air and Brentwood, home to Hollywood stars past and present, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Marilyn Monroe.

In 1994 it was the scene of the low-speed car chase in which OJ Simpson, then suspected of his wife's murder, inched along the freeway holding a gun to his head while pursued by police.

At the request of the police, film stars have taken to Twitter to warn people not to use their cars. Tom Hanks wrote: "This weekend, LA! Avoid Carmageddon, Gas-zilla, 405-enstein, Grid-lock-apalooza! STAY HOME. Eat and shop local! Hanx."

LA has opened an emergency operations centre and hundreds of firefighters and paramedics have been deployed.

Irish Independent

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