LA mayor declares 'Carmageddon II' a success

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Construction officials Kasey Shula (L) and Natasha Jones pose for a photo on the 405 Freeway as construction crews demolish a portion of the Mulholland Drive bridge along the 405 Freeway September 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The 405 Freeway was completely shut down for a 10 mile stretch this weekend for the demolition that is part of a larger $1-billion freeway improvement project. (Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images)

Carmaggeddon II

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Traffic was flowing again on the city's busiest freeway following a weekend closure that was hailed a success by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa after it didn't result in the "Carmageddon" of epic traffic jams.

Bridgework that forced the closure of Interstate 405 was completed and lanes of the freeway through the Sepulveda Pass began reopening Sunday night, hours ahead of a planned reopening for the Monday morning commute. The first drivers allowed back on the roadway cheered and honked their car horns as news cameras rolled.

A similar closure occurred last year to demolish portions of the half-century-old Mulholland Drive bridge to allow construction of an additional freeway lane. The south side of the freeway was removed last year, and the north-side lanes stayed standing until the south side was rebuilt.

Like last year, city residents heeded months of warnings to stay off the road and weekend traffic was unusually light.

Villaraigosa said his hope for a "Carmaheaven" came true and he thanked drivers for their cooperation.

"The real stars of this sequel were the motorists who took advantage of a car-free weekend and stayed off the road," he said.

Like Villaraigosa, some drivers couldn't resist comparing the scenario to a movie.

"It's like that movie 'Vanilla Sky,' ... where Times Square is empty," Sterling Gates told KABC-TV. "It's kind of like that. We're known for our traffic, and it's just nothing."

The closed, 10-mile section of the 405 carries about 500,000 motorists each day on a typical weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. California Department of Transportation officials said that in order for "Carmageddon II" to be a success, at least two-thirds of those drivers need to stay off the road.

The rare sight of a carless freeway attracted many onlookers, including seven people who were cited for sneaking onto the roadway, the California Highway Patrol said.

Last year, three people slipped onto the freeway at the crack of dawn and snapped photos of themselves enjoying a gourmet meal on an eerily empty freeway.