Metro's Doug Failing, executive director of highway projects, and Krishniah Murthy, executive director of transit projects and construction, answered questions regarding the during a one-hour live Internet chat Wednesday.
The closure will begin gradually July 15, Failing and Murthy said. Ramps will begin to close as early as 7 p.m. and lanes will begin closing one at a time at 10 p.m. By midnight, the 405 will be completely closed. It will reopen July 18 at 5 a.m.
Over the course of the discussion, Angelenos posed questions about the impact on local freeways, what mass transit lines would be running and what emergency responders will face during the closure.
However, the resounding concern was whether or not construction would remain on schedule and how that may affect the Monday morning commute.
Here are some highlights from the chat hosted on Metro's website:
LAX Flyaway Shuttle Service
"The Van Nuys Flyaway will be running its regular schedule but detouring through downtown Los Angeles. Travelers are being cautioned on the Flyaway website to begin their trip to the airport at least 1-2 hours earlier than normal," Failing said during the chat. "If you absolutely have to go to the airport on that weekend, another option is public transit (Metro or Metrolink) to Union Station in downtown L.A. and catch the LAX Flyaway there. You can also use the Metro Green Line and the shuttle."
Question: "Why does the freeway have to be closed for two solid days in both directions, when it wasn't for the Sunset and Skirball bridge demolitions?"
Metro officials said that the Sunset and Skirball bridges have center columns, so crews could demolish the bridge "in two segments by closing the freeway in one direction only." However, the Mulholland Bridge has no center column, so they have "to demolish the half of the bridge as one span."
Failing and Murthy went on to say the team is demolishing half of the bridge July 16-17 of this year. Reconstruction of the first half will take about 11 months.
In about a year from this July, they will demolish and begin reconstruction on the other half of the bridge. The project is slated to finish in 2013.
Both Failing and Murthy noted that the highest priority is safety and it would be impossible to demolish a bridge over live traffic without risking motorists.
Question: "Why not just demolish the WHOLE bridge? Why wait a year?"
"The bridge connects the east and west and need[s] to have the ability to keep traffic moving," Murthy said. "Doing [half] at a time allows us to demolish and reconstruct one side at a time while maintaining ... traffic on the other half. It also allows emergency responders to get from one side of the bridge to the other."
Question: "What happens to the Monday morning commute if the work isn't finished?"
"We plan to open the freeway by 5 a.m. Monday, July 18," Murthy said. "The contractor, Metro and Caltrans fully understand the public's concerns about making sure the work is safely completed by early Monday morning. The team has worked up a schedule and contingency plans that will meet this deadline and we will be monitoring this every step of the way."
A few questions arose regarding how medical emergencies will be handled. Failing and Murthy said the best thing is to seek assistance locally, should you have a medical emergency over the weekend of July 16-17.
Question: "I work for a hospice agency. We service patients both in the Valley and Los Angeles area. Will our staff be able to get to our patients?"
"Facilities such as yours should have a contingency plan to get your staff where they need to be during this weekend. If there is an emergency, please call 911," Failing said. "There will be additional resources ready to respond and pre-staged resources are being made available through the closure area."
Failing told the chat room members that all freeways in the Los Angeles area will experience a higher volume of traffic and congestion during the demolition weekend. He also said routes close to central business districts near the 5, 10, 60, 101, 110 and 210 freeways will experience the most congestion since they are the closest routes to the project area.
"The idea of staying home and shopping locally isn't just for the Westside and San Fernando Valley. It's really going to take all of us Angelenos working together (downtown, South Bay, San Gabriel Valley and Gateway Cities area) by staying home and shopping locally to keep our region moving," Failing said. "Some of us can't stay home but most of us can. We should."
Question: "Are there any detours to help minimize delays for buses from the Valley to the Westside? Or are you closing down bus service the weekend of the 405 closure?"
"All normally scheduled lines will be running and only one line will be detouring. Instead of running on the 405, Metro Rapid 761 will run via Sepulveda Boulevard through the pass," Failing said. "Metro is also adding service on Lines 2, 150, 534, 704, 720, 733 and 761. But passengers should expect extended travel time when using services in West LA and the southern San Fernando Valley/405 area."
Metro officials say there will be free Metro services on specific bus lines during demolition weekend. A list is available on the Metro website.
Failing and Murthy told the chat room members, "Metrolink is going to supplement its current weekend schedule by offering seven round-trips on the Ventura County Line and nine additional trips on the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line during the closure weekend. Metrolink will also offer its $10 Weekend Pass, which will enable passengers to ride any Metrolink train, as many times as they would like, between Friday night at 7 p.m. and Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. for one low rate."
Murthy and Failing told their chat audience the best thing anyone can do is stay away from the construction area if at all possible.
Their advice for Angelenos was to, "rent a good movie, walk to a local restaurant, bike to a local store and spend quality time with your family."