A photo released by Orange County Transportation Authority shows work along a 4-mile strip of Interstate 405 in Orange County, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. It expected to reopen earlier than expected Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Orange County Transportation Authority, Ryan Malone)
SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A section of one of Southern California’s busiest freeways reopened ahead of schedule Sunday, ending the threat of historic traffic snarls after workers finished demolishing an old bridge.
The day was not hassle-free. Syrupy, but moving, traffic was reported along detour routes that helped drivers navigate around the closed strip of Interstate 405. As many as 300,000 vehicles pass through the stretch of freeway on a typical weekend day.
“You can’t shut down a mainline freeway and not have some kind of traffic delay,” said state Transportation Department spokesman David Richardson. “But they were minimal.”
The work along a 4-mile strip of I-405 in Orange County raised fears of tangled traffic for miles, but officials reported no major tie-ups. The temporarily closed section was near I-405’s junction with state Route 22 and I-605.
The southbound lanes reopened at about 2:30 p.m., more than two hours ahead of schedule. The northbound side followed about an hour later, although it took longer to clear some ramps.
Extensive publicity before the construction work apparently persuaded most drivers to stay away from the area.
Workers helming cranes and bulldozers began ripping up the 700-foot bridge Saturday night. The demolition is part of a $277 million project to link carpool lanes between the freeways.
The shutdown is the latest freeway closure in Southern California to stir fears of epic traffic snarls, but those worries have so far not come to fruition.
The closure of a section of I-405 in Los Angeles in 2011, followed by a similar shutdown there last year, did not result in what was dubbed “carmageddon.” At the time, motorists heeded months of warnings to stay off the roads, and the traffic was unusually light.
In Orange County, officials spent nearly a year to prepare for the shutdown of I-405. To get the word out, they distributed tens of thousands of fliers, illuminated freeway signs around the region with warnings and dubbed the closure the “Bridge Bash.”
Later Sunday, a section of freeway in San Diego County is scheduled to close for 14 hours while a bridge is demolished. Officials are warning motorists to steer clear of the work on the 7-mile stretch of I-805 or face possible traffic snarls, UT San Diego reported.
State transportation workers plan to shut both sides of the busy interstate at 3 p.m. Sunday through 5 a.m. Monday. The closure will run from state Route 905 near San Ysidro to Route 54 in Chula Vista, near the border with Mexico.