MY Carmageddon! - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Reporter Hal Eisner

MY Carmageddon!

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In the life of a reporter there are certain stories that become part of you. I've had many, but Carmageddon 1 and 2 were right up there at the top of the list.

The new and improved Mulholland Bridge is now open! In many ways it seems like it's taken a long time. In other ways, not so long. As construction projects go this wasn't typical. It was a huge bridge that had to be widened to accommodate a 405 being widened below. But, first it had to be demolished in steps and that took on a life of it's own. It even had it's own name!

"Carmageddon" was Supervisor Zev Yaroslavky's term for a pair of weekend closures of the 405 freeway to do work on the massive bridge, I had already been doing stories on the 405 widening project, but once METRO and local officials announced plans for the demolition and reconstruction of the Mulholland Bridge that became my beat!

Let's start with Carmageddon 1. The goal was to bring down one side of the bridge so traffic could drive on the other side and then rebuild it. Officials warned of nightmarish traffic conditions if people didn't stay away from the 405 demolition weekend. Day after day I found myself doing stories on all of the possible impacts and even some I never considered ahead of time. Store and restaurant owners worried about loss of business. Homeowners in the Sepulveda Pass worried about the impact on their lives. There were plans for "Carmageddon Specials" to avert business loss. Yep, that was my beat!

It was because of those stories that Digital Editor, Jeffrey DeSocio and other colleagues at FOX 11 started calling me "HALTrans." It caught on! But, I digress.

As we actually approached Carmageddon 1 Weekend we at FOX 11 and other stations made big plans for coverage. Lots of folks at our station became part of the Carmageddon Army. Engineers, photographers, managers, writers, producers... lots of people had something to do with Carmageddon, but for me it was telling the story and by the time we got there I knew it. METRO setup a special media camp. We called it "Camp Carmageddon!" We waited for the big equipment to start punching away at the bridge's aging concrete. I will tell you that it was fascinating to watch. A spokesman for the contractor described it to me as a "ballet" when it comes to demolition work. Mechanical choreography pecking away at the structure and dropping basketball sized concrete balls onto a bed of dirt below. Watching from Camp Carmageddon was like having a great seat in an IMAX theater watching in 3D!

As it turned out "Carmageddon" was, as a London newspaper put it, "Carmaheaven" and local officials were relieved. When I mentioned what the London paper had written to Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Yaroslavsky "Carmaheaven" was suddenly one of the talking points at the post C1 news conference.

That brings us to the sequel. Once one half of the bridge was completed it was time to tear down and rebuild the other side. Time for Carmageddon 2. Public officials again put out their warnings, but drivers were a little skeptical this time. After all, C1 was no big deal. Would C2 be the nightmare on the 405? Turned out that it wasn't. But, as I look back, both demonstrated significant uses of media by public officials. They put out the word of potential gridlock. We carried the message as well as alternative ways to travel and drivers didn't want any part of it. It worked. Could there have been problems had the Carmageddon scare not gone out? Sure. The 405 is awful every day of the week. Throw in a closure and, even on a weekend, it could of been a terrible mess. Freeway accidents on the weekend can do that!

Now, the bridge is open. The work is done! Carmageddon is just a chapter in the decades-long history of the LA landmark. For me it's a chapter too, but, a pretty big one! I wrote and shared many stories in the days before and after C1 and C2. I tried to help LA better understand the work to be done, the potential impacts and how, on those weekends, to circumvent the 405 -- the busiest freeway in the nation! I was looking at some of my old stories and I thought this one at the end of C2 was interesting because of the still photos capturing so much of the demolition drama.

It took me back.

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