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Hunker down or flee? Los Angelenos gird for 'carmageddon' on I-405

With the shutdown of the key I-405 freeway in Los Angeles this weekend threatening 'carmageddon,' city residents and businesses are finding ways to help one another cope.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / July 15, 2011

Traffic moves slowly on the 405 freeway under the Mulholland Bridge in Los Angeles, Calif., July 14. 'Carmageddon' is the name Los Angeles residents are giving the likely epic traffic tie-up that will result when a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway is closed for construction.

Eric Thayer/Reuters

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Los Angeles

Mail clerk Jack Jones is flying on a special Jet Blue package from Burbank to Long Beach for just $5 round trip.

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Martha Remple, an unemployed mom, will be taking the orange subway line anywhere it goes for free.

Hairdresser Julie Dixon and messenger Randy Galang will leave their Granada Hills homes three hours early for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday night showing of “Evil Dead 2,” which is playing under the stars on the lawn of the Hollywood Cemetery.

“It’s usually a 20-minute drive but we’re not taking any chances,” says Ms. Dixon.

How Angelenos are coping, or not, with “carmageddon” – the 53-hour shutdown of a crucial 10-mile segment of freeway here – is the topic of conversation no matter where you go in this city.

From 7 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, this segment of Interstate 405 linking the Los Angeles International Airport and the San Fernando Valley – the most traveled freeway in the United States – will be closed so that engineers can demolish a bridge to create a carpool lane.

Many say it’s tearing the city apart by spotlighting the entire metropolitan region’s long-term overdependence on cars in place of adequate public transportation. Others say it’s bringing the city together as never before, because everyone is in the same predicament and helping each other out.

Newspapers are full of neighborhood-street short-cuts to try and ones to avoid. Restaurants and bars are offering special, car-themed promotions. Web sites offer T-shirts (“I was in the war”), bumper stickers (“the good … the bad… and the elderly”), and mouse pads with a photo of the devil at the wheel.

Bloggers are spoofing official attempts to provide information:

“Q: Will there be official-looking people everywhere I go, waving signs and telling me how to proceed?”

Yes. But that won’t change the fact that you’re [in big trouble.]’’

Some officials say the entire city will be clogged uncontrollably for the entire weekend. They note that on average, 375,000 cars drive the 405 every day. More on weekends. Others advise residents in no uncertain terms to either stay at home or leave town and things will be OK.

“I know every shortcut and not one of them is going to work,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in an interview with ABC News.com. “Stay the hell away is the best advice we can give. Don’t go anywhere near the west side of L.A. … stay home, get Netflix … everybody has to suck it up. We’re doing our part to make sure every man, woman, and child knows about this.”

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