This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Get ready for the Rampture: Campus drivers face major ramp closures

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Click to enlarge: UCLA Transportation's diagram shows The Oct. 15-29 Sunset closures in blue.
Click to enlarge: UCLA Transportation's diagram shows the Oct. 15-29 Sunset closures in blue.
Gridlock-causing closures to ramps connecting the 405 freeway to Sunset and Wilshire boulevards — crucial pipelines for UCLA commuters and visitors — will take place in waves that start as early as this Friday.
 
A multi-week Sunset area closure scheduled from Oct. 15-29 and months-long Wilshire ramp closures beginning in November will likely cause the most traffic problems for Bruins. The Sunset work will particularly throttle traffic for UCLA commuters from the San Fernando Valley. The construction will allow utility work and bridge-widening at Sunset and ramp realignments at Wilshire as part of a $1 billion 405-widening project by Metro, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
 
Editor's update Oct. 13, 2011: Metro has postponed the Wilshire ramp closures until early 2012 in order to complete all utility work on Sepulveda Boulevard first. Work on Sunset continues as planned.
 
It’s the same widening project that led to Carmageddon, the weekend-long shutdown of the 405 in July — but the ramp closures will last longer and could be much more painful for UCLA, said Renée Fortier, director of UCLA Transportation. The roads were unexpectedly clear during Carmageddon only because many people chose not to drive that weekend, she noted.
 
“The problem with these ramp closures is that staying home is not an option — you've got to go to work, got to go to school,” she said.
 
Click to enlarge: A Metro/CalTrans map details the Sunset closures and detours.
Click to enlarge: A Metro/CalTrans map details the Sunset closures and detours.
At least one local blog has already deemed the Wilshire closures the Rampture, in a fitting nod to Carmageddon’s apocalyptic nickname.
 
The first leg of the project starts this Friday, Sept. 30, with the closure of the I-405 southbound on-ramp from eastbound Sunset. That closure could make Sunset more problematic for Bruins coming from West L.A. on Sunset, but isn’t expected to have a major impact on the Westwood neighborhood, Fortier said.
 
More serious problems are expected to crop up Saturday, Oct. 15. Metro plans to close Church Lane, blocking access for two weeks to the 405 south from westbound Sunset, worsening congestion in the afternoon rush hour for drivers leaving UCLA via westbound Sunset. From Oct. 17-29, Metro will also close the southbound 405 Sunset exit ramp every weekday morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m, throwing an enormous kink into any commuter's plans to drive to UCLA from the Valley or the 101 freeway.
 
“About 25 percent of UCLA staff and faculty live north of campus,” Fortier said. “And there aren’t really good detours.” Sepulveda Boulevard, which parallels the 405 freeway, is already jammed by commuters and lane-closing utility work. But for people who can adjust their commuting schedules, she recommended it.
 
“If people continue to arrive at the absolute peak, between 7:30 and 9 a.m., they’re going to see significantly more traffic because they’ll have to exit at Wilshire,” she said. People who normally arrive at 6:30, though, might find it worth their time to arrive at 5:59 to avoid the morning closure, she said.
 
“The only silver lining is that at least it’s only two weeks,” she added.
 
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system, which monitors stoplights, will assign extra staff to watch the lights around Sunset in order to improve traffic flow, she added. LADOT will also monitor lights around Wilshire Boulevard, where construction will begin once the Sunset ramps are reopened. That work is tentatively scheduled for November, Fortier said.
 
Click to enlarge: The two ramps shaded in blue will be the first to close down for three months of construction that will realign the ramps.
Click to enlarge: The two ramps shaded in blue will be the first to close down for three months of construction that will realign the ramps.
Metro plans to realign all eight ramps at the 405 and Wilshire, starting with the pair in the northeast quadrant by the Veterans cemetery. The on- and off- ramps linking 405 north with westbound Wilshire are expected to close 24/7 to be rebuilt for three months.
 
“That will be huge,” predicted Dave Karwaski, manager of planning and policy for Transportation. Even relatively minor car accidents on the 405 have been known to send traffic jams rippling from the 10 to the 101, he pointed out. “There’s not much margin for error. One blip can overwhelm traffic. It’s going to be tough.”
 
As with Carmageddon, the solution will be to keep cars off the road, Fortier said.
 
“I’m talking about carpooling and public transit,” she said. “More people could carpool than do. We’ve done scatter diagrams, and people live close together.”
 
Public transit, which UCLA Transportation subsidizes for Bruins, also means reduced stress, Karwaski said.
 
“You’re still stuck in the congestion, but you’re not the driver. You can do something better with your time,” he said.
 
 
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