By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Car-crazed Los Angeles is preparing for a weekend of potential traffic gridlock that has earned the nickname "Carmageddon 2" amid fears drivers might not heed warnings to stay off the roads during a massive 53-hour freeway closure.
Warnings of nightmare jams last year in a phase of the same road-closing construction project kept so many people home that apocalyptic predictions of "Carmageddon" failed to materialize.
"Carmageddon, Schmarmageddon," Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said last year, after the 42-hour 405 Freeway shutdown was over.
But there are worries this year's project could result in more traffic, largely because it went so smoothly last year.
"If people don't think it's a problem, it will be one," Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz told Reuters.
The shutdown of a 10-mile (16-kilometre) stretch of the 405 Freeway will begin at midnight on Friday, with closures of on-ramps at 7 p.m. Friday (0200 GMT Saturday), Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Marc Littman said.
Lanes will open again at 5 a.m. on Monday, he said.
The shutdown is to allow workers to demolish the north side of a bridge that spans the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass as part of a $1 billion freeway widening project, Littman said. The south side of the bridge was demolished last year and has been rebuilt wider, just as the north side will be, he said.
A half million cars and trucks traverse the Sepulveda Pass stretch of the 405 Freeway on a typical weekend.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has held a dozen press conferences in recent weeks on the freeway shutdown and is spending $150,000 on advertising to remind the public about it, Littman said.
The California Department of Transportation has been warning about the closure for over a month on electronic freeway signs, some as far away as Sacramento, 360 miles north of Los Angeles.
Traffic information service INRIX said this week that if Los Angeles drivers do not heed calls to avoid travel, traffic could increase by 45 percent on Sepulveda Boulevard alongside the stretch of the 405 Freeway being shut down.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Vicki Allen)