(Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES -- The sequel to Carmageddon has had its midnight premiere, and Los Angeles transportation officials are hoping the weekend proves as successful as last year's first edition.
A 10-mile stretch of one of the world's busiest freeways was shut down early Saturday, and if all goes according to plan it'll stay that way until a bridge is rebuilt before the Monday morning traffic crunch.
For weeks drivers have been warned to stay away from the segment of Interstate 405 that will be shuttered through the Sepulveda Pass on LA's west side for the entire weekend.
If drivers don't avoid the area, officials warn, a city-wide traffic jam could result. But beyond just scare tactics, city officials have been encouraging Southern Californians to get out and enjoy their own neighborhoods on foot, on bikes or via short drives on surface streets.
During a similar closure last year commuters stayed away from the freeway in droves, the shutdown was considered a success, and crews finished the first phase of the work early.
This time, the contractor faces a penalty if the work isn't done in 53 hours.
"The penalty is $6,000 per lane of freeway, per 10 minutes. Let's assume the entire freeway isn't reopened, that's $60,000 every 10 minutes," Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Dave Sotero told KCBS-TV.
Meanwhile, TV news crews have a plan to avoid a traffic jam in the sky as they cover the shutdown.
Residents complained of low-flying, noisy helicopters hovering nonstop over the region last year.
"It was constant," Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, whose members live in many of the homes closest to the freeway, recently told The Associated Press. "It was a combination of the news media paparazzi and tour operators taking people who wanted to get a picture of the 405."
Although the area gets its share of paparazzi helicopters because of Charlie Sheen and other celebrities who live in the area, Close said they usually go away when the sun sets. During Carmageddon, however, the area is brightly illuminated overnight so construction workers can safely do their jobs.
This time, local television news directors have plans to pool coverage by using video from a single helicopter making limited flights over the freeway, according to Rick Terrell, executive director of the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.
The participating stations include major broadcasters including KABC-TV, KCBS-TV and KTTV-TV.