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L.A. downshifts and takes it easy

Motorists largely heed the warnings about 'Carmageddon' and stay off the freeways.

July 17, 2011|Alan Zarembo and Ari Bloomekatz and Nicole Santa Cruz

Officials said its apocalyptic connotation made clear that this was no ordinary road closure, scaring many people into staying home this weekend.

"The only way to reduce the number of cars in the system is to penetrate the consciousness of the motorists," Yaroslavsky said.

In light of the foreboding warnings, said Doug Failing, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's highway program, "it would be nice to have a little bit of congestion."

He was joking, but his point was an important one. Public officials run the risk of becoming victims of their own success. Their messages have to be strong enough to produce action but credible enough so that people -- and the media -- trust them the next time.

"We're going to have to be probably more creative in terms of getting the message out next time around, because there are going to be a lot of people who think, 'Ah, there's a lot to do about nothing,' " said Villaraigosa. "And frankly, they couldn't be more wrong. This is working because people are heeding the call."

The 10-mile stretch of the 405 was scheduled to be closed until 6 a.m. Monday. But officials said the partial demolition of the Mulholland Drive bridge is going so well that the freeway could reopen sooner.

Sometime next summer, transportation officials plan to demolish the other half of the bridge.

Stay tuned for "Carmageddon II."

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