Perspectives on Carmageddon

If you live anywhere in the USA, you’ve heard of carmageddon by now. If you live in California, the coverage has been even more intense, and if you live in SoCal, you’ve been innundated. It’s gotten so silly there’s going to be a race between bicyclists and Jet Blue between Burbank and Long Beach! Some perspective is required. Here are some lunchtime thoughts…

This isn’t the first major freeway closure. It isn’t even the first planned one. Here are some major freeway closures of the past:

  • Bay Bridge Closure 2009. Over Labor Day weekend in 2009, Caltrans closed the Bay Bridge, a major transportation link between San Francisco and Oakland. Travellers were required to take public transit, use the Golden Gate bridge and go around on I-580, or take bridges further to the south. The public was notified well in advance, although the bridge did reopen two hours late due to new cracks.
  • Cypress Street Viaduct 1989. In 1989, the Loma Priata Earthquake caused the collapse of the double-decker Cypress Street Viaduct. The collapse of this section, on which 170,000 vehicles traveled per day prior to the earthquake, caused over 40 fatalities. This resulted in a multi-year reconstruction of I-880, requiring traffic to be rerouted on multiple freeways. The new freeway was completed in 1997 at a cost of 1.25 billion dollars.
  • Santa Monica Freeway 1994. In 1994, the Northridge Earthquake resulted in the collapse of a portion of the Santa Monica Freeway. The bridges on the Santa Monica were among six that collapsed in the Northridge earthquake and were the first to be rebuilt. An average of 341,000 vehicles a day used the roadway. Using an accelerated schedule and bonuses, the contractor, C. C. Myers Inc., finished the project 74 days before the deadline (less than 3 months after the earthquake) and racked up a $14.5-million bonus for the company. Asked what he was going to do with the money, he said, “I’m gonna buy me a bigger airplane.” (The Northridge Earthquake also caused the collapse of the Simi Freeway, Route 118).
  • 1984 Olympics. Well, this wasn’t a closure, but people sure thought it was. There were dire warnings of round-the-clock traffic that never materialized. In fact, traffic was even lighter than predicted.

These are just four examples. Californian’s are resiliant. We’ll adapt and figure out solutions. But you know what I’m worried about?

Carmegeddon II

Yup. They are going to do this all again next year. If the traffic doesn’t materialize this year, it’s going to be really bad next year, because no one will believe the predictions.