Carmageddon Warnings Scare Drivers Off The Roads as Interstate 405 Reopens Early


The most epic thing about Los Angeles' feared Carmageddon weekend might be the zen blanketing a metropolis known for televised car chases and road-rage.

Instead, the City of Angels seemed to take a long, deep, cleansing breath, grateful for the good car karma as the Interstate 405 opened ahead of schedule today.

"I was expecting to fly into the eye of the storm, but it was just a big pussycat," said Eugene Levy, the bushy-browed Canadian comedy actor (Second City TV, all seven "American Pie" movies), writer and director, as he and his wife Deborah Divine settled down for a relaxed Saturday dinner after flying back into town.

The project was moving so far ahead of schedule that transportation officials reopened the freeway 17 hours ahead of their target of 5 a.m. Monday.

Billboards warning of historic gridlock, celebrity tweets to stay in your neighborhood and stern mayoral pronouncements apparently scared most Angelenos off the road (or out of town) during the shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of I-405, a landmark north-south artery connecting the city to the San Fernando Valley.

The closure turned the city's Westside into a relaxing, sun-dappled play-land where restaurants seated patrons without waits and Angelos made uncharacteristic use of their own foot-power to get around.

At least two intrepid skateboarders dodged police and California Highway Patrol officers staged at the onramps for an unimpeded adventure down the 405, only to be warned they risked arrest if they attempted a repeat performance.

Divine said she and Levy, who split their time between Los Angeles and Toronto, had considered rescheduling Saturday's return flight from the Northwest, but were delighted things worked out so well with their return into what many people had expected might be the eye of the traffic storm.

The couple dined at The Daily Grill in the Brentwood neighborhood of the city, just west of the 405, where they were among such regulars as Julie Newmar, the actress best known for portraying Catwoman in the "Batman" television series of the 1960s.

More than a week ahead of Carmageddon, the restaurant chain reached out by email, Twitter and Facebook to promote a special Carmageddon Survival Menu, offering "select menu items for $4.05 each to help ease the 405 headache this weekend."

Cocktails created for the occasion bore such transportation-associated names as Side Car Martini, Freshly Squeezed Greyhound and METRO-politan. Server Nicole Barreto said the evening crowd was smaller than usual, but "a lot more people came in and asked about the 405 special."

At his window table, Levy mulled the way Angelenos were making Carmageddon weekend decisions about whether to stay or leave town and speculated about whether traffic would be worse on today when the lack of Saturday gridlock might lure wary residents back onto local roads, creating what he called "Sunday, Bloody, Sunday."

"It's a head-game," Levy said. "You're double- and triple-guessing what people are going to do."

At the Hammer Museum in Westwood, a half-mile east of the freeway closure, doors literally stayed wide open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday, welcoming tourists and locals alike for a free weekend in its galleries, which contain Impressionist masterpieces in The Armand Hammer Collection of Art as well as special exhibits.

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