In Los Angeles, 'Carmageddon' looms

Los Angeles residents are gearing up for the shutdown of a major highway by fleeing the city in droves. Is there a better way to repair infrastructure?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Next week, 11 miles of one of the most heavily-traveled roads in California will shut down.

Car-happy residents of Los Angeles, as you might suspect, are freaked out.

A New York Times report notes that the closure of parts of Interstate 405 for 53 hours on July 16 and 17 -- a road on which 500,000 cars travel every weekend -- has city officials scrambling to get the word out.

The project is part of a $1 billion widening project for the commuter-clogged highway.

Adam Nagourney writes:

City officials are warning of a traffic nightmare, urging people to stay home or get out of town with pronouncements that have taken on an increasingly alarming tone. “EXPECT BIG DELAY” reads the warning on electronic billboards on highways and streets from Bakersfield to San Diego. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has an official “Countdown to the Closure” clock on its Web site, ticking down to the weekend of July 16 and 17.

While city officials -- including mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- urge Angelenos to ditch the city entirely, local business owners are crying foul, saying that the better thing to do is stay out of your car and explore the local neighborhood.

Naturally each party has its own interests in mind, but the project itself demonstrates how important infrastructure projects can be --from a cultural, economic and logistics issue. The price of this project may be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but far more is likely being spent to accomodate for the shutdown -- however brief -- of a major regional artery.

The other issue the project raises? Redundancy. Just how much infrastructure duplication is necessary for a city to avoid paralysis during construction? Should public transit help relieve the pressure on freeways, and vice-versa?

Cities are constantly maintaining their infrastructure -- filling potholes, widening lanes, repaving roads and, in the end, rerouting traffic. How much additional transportation capacity should a city have to accomodate for these inevitable events?

And does a diverse portfolio of transportation options make a difference?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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