On the 405: Construction + Demolition

Posted on by Lauren M

With all the recent alerts, news, images and media attention focused on the 405 freeway closure in Los Angeles this weekend, the project truly seems to have earned its apocalyptic moniker, 'Carmageddon'.  In addition to the numerous online resources and 24-hour news coverage, there are even countdown and alert widgets to share on your own website, with a nifty graphic linking to a project information page.


The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project has its own site, facebook page, several twitter accounts and live camera feeds, some of which, granted, are probably of significance considering the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that use this portion of freeway on a daily basis.  However, the magnitude of the warnings and potential resulting impacts makes one pause to consider the critical role of infrastructure, transportation and urban planning in our daily lives.  It's a complex and complicated issue, but how to best implement effective public transportation systems is an important long-term dialogue and, unfortunately, is something often overlooked by many of us who are dependent on these access networks.


The reason for the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge is to enable the expansion of the 405 freeway, and it's one of three overpasses reconstructed in this effort.  While alleviating traffic congestion is a welcome change for most commuters, the counterargument- that more roads mean more cars, leading to further congestion- is one to consider when rethinking our public transit systems.  While improvements to infrastructure almost always benefit communities in terms of safety and accessibility, social and cultural factors should also be considered in the design and implementation of these systems.


The image above of the construction of the original bridge, completed in 1960, represents the context in which it was initially built- the freeway beneath wasn't constructed for another two years.


And now it's being expanded- how quickly things change! Ironically, Mulholland was named after the engineer who was instrumental in the creation of the aquaducts that led to population explosions that allowed for the rapid development of Southern California in the first half of the 20th century.  Now, the region enters another phase of growth and development, with the implementation of extensive road enhancement plans from the LA Transportation Authority and CalTrans.

For more details on the entire project as well as other regional road improvement plans in the works, visit this link from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Highway Program.  


So, even though we are pretty enthusiastic when it comes to construction (and demolition) in general, but we wonder, along with many planners and residents- once the dust settles, roads are widened and commuters are back in their cars, will the excitement and all the hype have been worth it?  

One of the stated intentions of the program, to promote ridesharing, is a step forward in terms of making LA's transit system more environmentally-friendly, but the addition of a high-occupancy lane will likely not resolve more critical issues that may arise in the future. If population growth and development have caused the type of change seen in only a few decades, it only makes sense to look ahead to prepare for further anticipated change as our cities continue to evolve, and, similarly, our values, lifestyles and needs. 

Only time will tell...  But until then, anyone living in LA will enjoy a few extremely rare days of a virtually auto-free existence and we'll all survive Carmaggedon without incident.