July 16, 2011 — -- A portion of the 405 Interstate Freeway in California, one of the busiest highways in the country, is now a ghost town after being shut down at midnight for construction in what Los Angeles residents feared would be "carmageddon."
Before the clock struck midnight, tempers flared as authorities stopped all traffic heading towards the interstate a bit earlier then planned. Some folks left their cars, while others took in the event as though it were a tourist attraction.
Workers began to repair the 10-mile stretch of highway shortly after.
"The work is progressing, traffic is cooperating and it's moving freely this morning," California Department of Transportation Deputy Director of Maintenance and Operations Mike Miles said at a press conference this morning. "We're expecting it to start picking up as the morning progresses and people see there's not that much traffic out there."
"Were going to be monitoring the congestion buildup, and as that congestion builds up they're going to be able to call 511 [an automated communications system that provides road conditions for specific roads ) and find out which way you should go," Miles said.
For weeks now, Los Angeles officials have predicted doomsday.
"Now is the hour ... we're asking all of you to cooperate," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.
"Carmageddon" has been the top of the evening news and the butt of jokes for late night comics.
"You won't be able to go anywhere on the 405, as opposed to when it's open and you can't go anywhere on the 405," Jay Leno said on "The Tonight Show."
It's a crisis perfectly suited to the LA zeitgeist, and LA drivers are taking it seriously. Many have decided to stay home, and aerial shots this morning show traffic quieter than it's been in years.
The event is big enough to lure actor Erik Estrada, who played a California highway motorcycle policeman on "CHiPs," out of retirement to star in a huge public service campaign.
"I think it's going to be terrific, I think it's a wonderful adventurous weekend ... as long as you stay home," Estrada said.