in California is always an adventure, in Los Angeles, the sport of
driving has been elevated to an art form. Like qualifying for
Indy 500 pole position, you never know who you will be sharing the road
down the 101 / 405 Interchange
Some drivers are on their cell phones arguing with their
agents, boyfriends or psychiatrists. Others are putting on
for that big audition, or suffering from either caffeine overdoses or
Some days it takes a unique mix of passive
aggression, anger management and an inner connection with your auto
insurance agent to make it safely across our vast freeway
On a recent drive, we found ourselves traveling north on the Interstate
405 freeway through the treacherous Sepulveda Pass down into the San
Interstate 405, or the San Diego Freeway is the
major north / south artery connecting LA's San Fernando Valley with The
West Side of Los Angeles. U.S. 101, or the Ventura Freeway
east and west along the southern part of The Valley, and connects Los
Angeles with Ventura County in the north.
These two arteries
intersect at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountain range in a tangle
of concrete called the 101 / 405 Interchange. This interchange is rated
#1 on the list of America's 24 Worst Highway Bottlenecks.
To cross The Pass in the old days you needed to use a dirt road called
Sepulveda Boulevard. At the top of the mountains it ducked
an art deco tunnel under Mulholland Highway. Today the best
is the 405 Freeway which blasted its way through the rocky mountain
pass and now flows over the top of the Santa Monica Mountain range
down towards U.S. Route 101. Mulholland crosses over the 405
huge steel bridge flying across the freeway.
Under optimum conditions, it is a dangerous section of
It has six lanes of cracked and patched asphalt with only painted white
lines and Bott's Dots separating you from your fellow
California is attempting a massive improvement project at the 101 / 405
Interchange which just adds to the challenge by turning it into a huge
obstacle course. Ominous steel cranes loom over the freeway
distracting signs and construction equipment littering the sides of the
The slope on this small stretch of highway is steep, so that just adds
to the speeding, careening and screeching. Drivers on the right are
frequently stopped or slowing as cars cram into lanes for the Ventura
freeway exits. Drivers on the left are usually speeding up in
thinning traffic as they continue north on the 405 through the
Valley. If everyone stayed in their lanes the
just might work. Unfortunately that isn't the case.
Cars cut across lanes of traffic because they're going to miss the 101
turn-off. Drivers also slam on their breaks when they realize
steep the grade is and their SUV is picking up too much speed; "Hold
the phone honey, I gotta drive".
Irritated drivers in the right
hand lanes are sick of everyone cutting in line, so they won't let you
in. There is a lot of sudden braking and jockeying for
reminiscent of the Indy 500 on the final laps. The middle lane becomes
sort of a no-man's land of crisscrossing cars, like a dangerous ballet
of flying steel with flying cell phones and travel mugs.
Until the highway improvements are finished, this interchange raises
the thrill level for driving in Los Angeles to an art form.
forget to buckle up and in the words of the immortal traffic guru and
punster Bill Keene; "Be alert and you won't get hurt".
At the top of the grade, the 405 freeway north
interchange at the bottom of the hill.
The two lanes on the right
will eventually go to the Ventura freeway. The left lanes are
continuing north into the Valley.
Typical cracked LA roads on the 405 freeway.
right is a
sound wall. On the other side of the wall is Sepulveda
In the distance is more signage, but you should have
already picked your lane by now!
An orange barrier pole lays on the ground in the
left of this
photo. Farther down, yellow barrels protect wayward drivers
the 405 freeway.
These barrels are usually filled with water or
sand to help stop
a car from crashing into the steel barriers behind them -- or anyone
Cars on the
left have committed to continuing north on the 405. Cars on
right are going to the 101, or Ventura freeway.
An the improved section of the 405 freeway becomes
the sky. Ventura Blvd. and the Sherman Oaks
Galleria are on
Snappy Driving Slogans
From My Store:
Be A Mellow Driver
For you and your fellow drivers to remember while in
on the freeway or the cruising down the open road. In retro hippie
letters to help resist road rage
Up And Drive Slogan
In red safety letters and a reversed, mirror image
in orange. Be safe on the road, hang up the cell phone and watch the