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Metropolis | So So Cal

The Magic Carpet Ride

June 09, 1996|Michael R. Forrest

When viewed from above, the ramps connecting the Harbor Freeway to the Century Freeway fan out like giant lobster antennae. Even to automobile-numbed Angelenos, those ramps are a shock, rising unexpectedly above sea-flat Los Angeles to an imposing 122 feet. To drive underneath the interchange is to know the terror of a cockroach just before the heel comes down. But, of course, it's the height of the interchange that makes driving the connectors such a pleasure. Shoot up those ramps at night, particularly the single-support carpool limb that connects the westbound 105 to the north 110 freeway, and you realize this is nothing less than a free roller coaster--a magic carpet ride over the city's electric sodium-vapor pixie dust. It may offer the best unobstructed view from within the city itself. The earth falls away, and you're up there zooming around with the birds, the planes and the angels.

So far, no one has gone over the edge since the interchange opened in October 1993. Even Bowman Lee, one of the Caltrans design engineers who worked on the freeway, finds the ramps a bit unnerving. "I always think the structure is too high," he says. "I would have liked to have seen it built lower to the ground, but we had to follow some very strict criteria for speed and clearance and where to put the columns." Still, like thousands of others, Lee loves driving the interchange. Except for one thing, "Every time I drive up, I hope the big earthquake doesn't come."

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