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

The Rampture is coming: Wilshire/405 ramp closures set for June

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Click to enlarge: This Metro graphic shows how the ramps will be rebuilt.
Click to enlarge: This Metro graphic shows how the ramps will be rebuilt.
Call it the "Rampture” or the “Ramp Jam,” but whatever nickname you give to the Wilshire Boulevard/405 ramp closures, expect at least a year of construction and miles of traffic delays, starting Friday, June 22, the week after UCLA Commencement ceremonies.
 
UCLA Transportation and Metro, Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, recommend that drivers give themselves plenty of extra time and encourage commuters to consider carpooling, public transit or vanpools to remove as many single-driver vehicles from the road as possible.
 
Click to enlarge: Metro's rendering of the completed ramps, due in mid-to-late 2013.
Click to enlarge: Metro's rendering of the completed ramps, due in mid-to-late 2013.
“Even people who don’t normally take the 405 will likely see congestion,” predicted Renée Fortier, the director of UCLA Events and Transportation. Transportation sent out a letter reminding Bruins of the department’s carpool matching, bus subsidies and other ideas for coping with the delays.
 
The Rampture is the latest challenge to drivers’ patience posed by the multiyear, $1 billion project to widen the 405 freeway and complete the northbound carpool lane.
 
At the intersection of one of the nation’s busiest streets with one of the nation’s busiest freeways, Metro must demolish the on- and off-ramps at Wilshire to add the 405’s extra lane. It’s also an opportunity to improve the ramps, making them longer and less likely to cause traffic back-ups on Wilshire and the freeway, said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero.
 
The first two ramps to close will be the entrance ramp from westbound Wilshire to the  northbound 405 — a typical UCLA-to-the-Valley route — and the exit ramp from the northbound 405 to westbound Wilshire, which is less likely to affect Bruin drivers. Metro estimates that those two ramps will take 90 days to tear down and rebuild after their scheduled close on June 22.
 
Metro has yet to determine the schedule for the remaining six ramps, but predicts the completion of all eight ramps — along with the overall 405-widening project — by mid-to-late 2013, Sotero said. Crews will literally be working 24/7 to minimize the disruption, but Sotero repeated County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's warning that travel times could take twice as long as normal.
 
Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor  in UCLA's Broadcast Studio, discussing the Rampture and other transportation topics. Rampture conversation begins at 7:46.
A whole field has sprung up to find ways to do more projects like last summer’s infamous Carmageddon, said Brian Taylor, a UCLA professor in urban planning and director of the Institute for Transportation Studies. Carmageddon completely closed 10 miles of the 405 for a weekend. In comparison, the Rampture would reduce capacity for more than a year.
 
“It’s like removing a Band-Aid,” Taylor said. “You can do it fast or slow, but it’s going to hurt either way.”
 
Sotero explained that work on the eight Wilshire ramps would take too long to attempt a complete closure of the freeway, and there’s no space to build the new ramps before demolishing the old ones. Quick-drying concrete and other developments can speed up the process, Taylor said, but the eight Wilshire ramps would still takes weeks or months to complete, he noted.
 
“It would be easier if we could just shut everything down,” Taylor said. “Instead, we have to do this while we’re still moving 300,000 vehicles through there a day. ... There are going to be incredible delays.”
 
When the first closures begin, the biggest impact for Bruins will be during the afternoon rush hour as cars look for new ways to get from westbound Wilshire onto the north 405, said UCLA’s Fortier. Going north to the Sunset Boulevard onramp is the obvious option, but not the only choice: Going south to the Santa Monica Boulevard onramp might work better, she said.
 
“Trying to adjust the hours of your commute, ridesharing and even trying something counterintuitive like going south to go north are probably the best bets,” Fortier said. “We’re encouraging people who may not be ridesharing to try it out because it will help to have fewer cars on the road.”
 
UCLA Transportation offers a carpool-matching program to help Bruins find driving buddies. It also subsidizes bus fares with six public transit agencies, runs its own vanpool program and will start a new bicycle program this summer, offering drivers incentives to try biking to work, Fortier said. Metro will also run more buses, Sotero said.
 
With 20,000-25,000 UCLA commuters going through the Wilshire/Sepulveda intersection daily, the most important thing is for people to be aware of the impending closures, said Dave Karwaski, senior associate director for Transportation. Commute times to and from campus will be unpredictable at the beginning of each closure, he said.
 
“It will be pretty fluid initially as people adjust their commutes and will probably reach equilibrium after a few weeks,” Karwaski said, before joking, “It’s a good time to take a vacation.”
 
Later ramp closures could be equally painful, Fortier said, such as the 90-day closure of the 405 south off-ramp to eastbound Wilshire, which will affect morning commuters who live north of UCLA. The closure of the 405 north off-ramp to eastbound Wilshire, the busiest ramp in the intersection in the morning, when it is used by a peak of 1,500 cars an hour, will also cause significant delays, Fortier said.
 
“The only nice thing about that one is that it’s closure is much shorter at only 21 days,” she said. The closure of the westbound on-ramp from Wilshire to 405 south is scheduled to be only 14 days, according to Metro.
 
The reconfigurations should lead to smoother sailing in 2013, Karwaski said.
 
“Not only will these ramps have more capacity, which means fewer cars queuing on Wilshire,” he said, “you’re also eliminating two very dangerous weaving situations.”
 
While drivers entering the freeway on two ramps currently have to merge and fight their way toward two off-ramps, the redesign will eliminate this “zipper effect” by moving cars exiting at Wilshire off the freeway before cars entering at Wilshire begin merging in, Metro’s Sotero said.
 
The bottom line, he said, is if you can get where you’re going without using Wilshire, “that’s a good idea. Finding multiple detour routes and choosing them based on daily conditions will help. But for most people, adding extra time to their commute is going to be what gets them through the area.”
 
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Additional information:
UCLA Transportation memo about the Rampture
Real-time traffic info from go511.com
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