LOS ANGELES -- The streets here were nearly deserted early Saturday as residents waited in a kind of limbo after the road closure that city officials promised would lead either to paradise or to apocalypse.
Carmageddon II, as this weekend has been called, began Friday night with the closing of a 10-mile stretch of the nation's busiest freeway, Interstate 405. It will remain shut until early Monday while construction crews work on the next phase of a project to add car pool lanes.
The 53-hour closing, everyone agreed, could leave hundreds of thousands of people frozen in traffic.
As he pleaded with residents to help avoid endless gridlock Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa tried to rebrand the weekend as "Carmaheaven," a chance for everyone to enjoy a weekend away from their cars.
"Stay local; walk in your neighborhood; go to your local restaurant; shop locally; get on Metrolink; or Metro Rail; or a bus," Villaraigosa said. "But don't get in your car."
When the same stretch of freeway was closed in July 2011, city officials warned of fire and brimstone ("EXPECT BIG DELAY," read signs on highways all over Southern California). And Angelenos listened. For one weekend in this city of cars, everyone walked. The city's roads felt emptier than ever before.
But after residents discovered they could zip around faster than ever on abandoned streets, many have grown bolder, if only slightly so, this time around.