Carmageddon in L.A.!

Jennifer Collins Jul 5, 2011

Carmageddon in L.A.!

Jennifer Collins Jul 5, 2011

ADRIENE HILL: Later this month, a stretch of L.A.’s 405 freeway will close down for construction. The 405 is one of the busiest freeways in the country, And as Jennifer Collins reports, the shutdown could create a major bottleneck for business.

Jennifer Collins: L.A.’s 405 freeway is legendary. Who doesn’t remember this?

Tom Brokaw: The white Bronco that you see on the freeway going right on your screen contains O.J. Simpson.

And no movie about L.A. is complete without a monster traffic jam.

405, The Movie: We’re just getting word that the 405 southbound has been shut down completely.

But traffic on July 16th will be no fantasy. A 10-mile stretch of the freeway will be closed as part of a billion dollar construction project to widen the road. And backups all over the city will be epic.

Zev Yaroslavsky: Well, they’re calling this “Carmageddon.”

That’s L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. At a press conference, L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put it this way:

Antonio Villaraigosa: It will be an absolute nightmare.

It’s impossible to predict what the shutdown will cost businesses. But tourists typically spend about $70 million over a weekend. Nancy Sidhu is chief economist at the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation.

Nancy Sidhu: Many people who schedule visits to Los Angeles did so six months ago. And so they’re now hearing about this and they’re saying ‘Ahh!’

Some local businesses are capitalizing on that panic. Anastasia Roark and friends started the website, which lists places to get deals during the shutdown.

Anastasia Roark: Because a lot of businesses were afraid about a lack of business or a lack of traffic of people hunkering down.

Tattoo parlors and restaurants are offering 405 specials. Bars are offering drinks like “The Gridlock” and “The Road Rager.” For the rich, there are discount helicopter rides high above the freeway. Roark says there’s another option.

Roark: We’re encouraging people to get out, walk around and check out your own neighborhood.

Steve Martin: Walk, ha! A walk in a L.A.

That was Steve Martin in L.A. Story. Angelenos may want to reconsider the whole walking thing. Construction will shut down the freeway again in about a year.

In Los Angeles, I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

We put together a playlist of 405-inspired tunes in the Marketplace Music section.

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