They called it “Carmageddon.”
When transportation officials in Los Angeles announced that they were going to close a 10-mile section of Interstate 405, one of the city’s busiest freeways, to all traffic over a July weekend, residents were envisioning fatalistic outcomes.
Many predicted never-before-seen gridlock on other freeways throughout the southern California area, with motorists stranded in their vehicles for hours at a time. Such gridlock is sure to cause fender-benders, rising car insurance rates, and just about everything else that keep Californians up at night. Many people canceled their weekend plans and adjusted their schedules to avoid the area completely. Or they decided to stay home entirely.
Thankfully, there were no major headaches reported as a result of Carmageddon. And all Los Angeleans breathed a sigh of relief when the 405 reopened.
While road construction closures are common, rarely is a lengthy stretch of an entire freeway shut down for more than a day. And roadwork has never forced residents of a city to drastically alter their plans on such a large scale. Which begs the question: could it happen again … somewhere else?
Here are five cities which could experience a Carmageddon of their own in the near future.
- Austin, TX. The capital city of the Lone Star State has experienced radical growth over the past two decades. But its infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth — which results in frequent traffic jams on the section of Interstate 35 that skirts the Austin downtown area. If I-35 were closed for any length of time, traffic backups could stretch toward Dallas … which is 200 miles away.
- San Diego, CA. The beautiful West Coast city is on two infamous Top 10 lists: U.S. cities with the most substandard roads, and metro areas with the longest traffic delays. Plus, Interstate 5 runs along the California coast and the city’s western edge. If that thoroughfare were to be closed, it would severely limit access to San Diego’s airport, as well as several major tourist attractions.
- San Jose, CA. This northern California city boasts the roughest roads in the nation, with 66% of them possessing substandard pavement quality. It’s also a Top 10 traffic delay city, with countless commuters idling on major roadways like I-880, I-680, and I-280. If any of these three freeways were shut down, traffic could grind to a halt in the city.
- Washington, D.C. It’s hard enough to get around our nation’s capital without having to deal with road construction. The unusual “spoke” system of roads may have been advantageous for early Washingtonians, but it’s confusing and cumbersome today. And if freeways like I-395, I-295, or I-66 were to be deemed inaccessible due to roadwork, commuters from nearby Virginia and Maryland might be better off staying home.
- San Francisco/Oakland, CA. This major metro area represents a “perfect storm” of Carmageddon potential: substandard-quality roads, lengthy traffic delays, and millions of people in a spread-out area. Closing I-880 or I-580 in Oakland would stymie traffic in that city, while blocking off any of the three main thoroughfares connecting the two cities (I-80, Highway 92, or Highway 84) could strand people on either side of the bay indefinitely.
Will we ever see another Carmageddon? It’s quite possible. Los Angeles officials are already planning for a major shutdown on the same freeway next year. But if everyone plans for it as well as they did for this year’s event, Carmageddon may become as overhyped as the Y2K bug a decade ago.
Image credits: kcet.org, theknowitallmom.com, blog.ivman.com.