Carmageddon is here. In less than 12 hours LA traffic is about to come to a stop. The 405 freeway will be closed starting tonight at 9PM between the 10 freeway and highway 101. The shutdown is scheduled to end on Monday morning at 5AM, but time will tell if that is fact or fiction.
For anyone not familiar with the Southern California freeway system, this stretch of the 405 is a mess on a good day. It could be Tuesday morning at 11AM and chances are good you will be in stop and go traffic. Technically known as the sepulveda pass, many Angelenos refer to this section as “the wall” because it seperates the valley from West LA. Making a trip from the valley to Santa Monica will require you to get over “the wall” and what should be a 15 minute drive usually takes closer to an hour. Traffic is so bad in this area that navigating the pass efficiently requires a counterintuitive “up right down left” approach. It makes zero sense but whether you are going north or south it works. For some reason traffic is faster going up the hill in the right lane, and faster coming down the hill in the left lane. Although if you are going north this approach leads to another LA passtime…..cutting off drivers at the bottom of the hill by the Sherman Oaks Galleria to merge onto the 101.
Making your way up and down the 405 is just another quirk of driving in LA, kind of like making an LA left turn. While it’s certainly not legal under the California Vehicle Code, an “LA left turn” involves working your way into the intersection and waiting till the light turns red. Once the oncoming traffic is through the intersection, you make your left against the red. Meanwhile the cars on either side of you with the green give you dirty looks on a good day, and honk or start road rage on a bad day. It feels dangerous and completely illegal the first time you do it, but after you live in LA for a while, you discover that it’s the only way to make a left turn in most intersections. The other recipe for an LA left is to just make three rights and work your way back around the block.
When it comes to driving in Southern California, there is the Vehicle Code, and there is reality. Ultimately, people will find a way to get where they are going even if the rules tell us otherwise. Caltrans and the media are telling us that this shutdown of the 405 is going to be completed by Monday and ultimately lead to a solution to the traffic problem. If you actually take the 405 you know this isn’t going to happen. It’s going to continue to get worse and people are going to keep finding a way to get where they need to go. Personally, I think its time for the 406.