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Published:July 14th, 2011 12:57 EST
Can "Ponch" Save California from the 405 Shutdown?

Can "Ponch" Save California from the 405 Shutdown?

By Donna Cavanagh

First, there was the impending rapture; then the devastating drought that has crippled many parts of the United States and now, Carmageddon. 

Carmageddon?  Is this another religious term to signify the end of days?  Well, if you live in the Los Angeles area, yes.  Carmageddon is a recently coined term describing what is going to happen this weekend when the infamous 405 freeway is shut down for widening improvements. 

Anyone who has ever driven on the 405 knows the importance of this road which connects West Los Angeles to the highly-populated San Fernando Valley. Five hundred thousand cars travel the busiest stretch of this road each day. 

I know what some of you outside California are saying, "So what. It`s a little construction. We all have been dealing with construction." Okay, you would be right there.  I can attest that many states, including mine, Pennsylvania, has been one big construction zone for the past three years. I have not driven anywhere "literally anywhere without being detoured off the road or having to stop for a flagman. It doesn`t matter if I go down a country lane or a major highway; there is construction. The signs posted by each road improvement site call the work "The Re-building of America."  I call it "A Driver`s Slow Descent into Insanity".

Anyway, what makes the 405 shutdown so severe is that authorities say it could potentially cause a 64-mile backup. This is a disaster waiting to happen.  Picture it: 500,000-plus people trapped on a road that already has its fair share of violent road rage; 500,000-plus people baking in the hot California sun without an ample supply of food, water and most importantly, weed. 

Public service announcements have been bombarding the airwaves asking people to avoid the 405 or better yet, avoid driving this upcoming weekend entirely.  The state even got Erik Estrada or "Ponch" from CHiPs to relay its message because if anyone has the power to convince California drivers to stay home, it`s Ponch--well, maybe T.J. H(o)oker.     

California had the right idea involving a cop icon in the announcements, but I think they should have gone one step further.  This is my plan and in the spirit of reaching across state lines which for me is about 48 state lines, I offer California my idea at no charge.  Book Sarah Palin or better yet, Governor Rick Perry and his prayer people to speak at the midway point of the 405 on Saturday.  I guarantee that either one of these dynamic speakers will not only inspire people to avoid that freeway but California in general.  California might be empty and the construction crews will be able to finish their work without fear of being harassed, threatened or run over by disgruntled drivers who are sick of the stressful commute or just frustrated that their acting careers never took off.

Oh, I have another idea and this one could bring revenue to California which I heard could use extra cash, and this idea can be easily implemented especially with all the television resources there.  Make a reality show of the weekend.  Change the public service announcements to have Ponch telling residents to drive on that highway. He can lie and say the upcoming construction was all just a joke.  Then, as people sit in that parking lot that will not move for at least two days, film them.  Is there any better entertainment than this?  It would be like Jersey Shore on steroids.  Think about the action, the romance, the drama. It is an Emmy Award-winning series waiting to happen, and it will employ all those people who up to now could not get an acting break.

Too controversial?  Okay, I just thought we could turn this event into a positive experience. In truth, the one bright, shining, entrepreneurial beacon in this travel nightmare is JetBlue Airlines which offered cheap flights around the construction mayhem on July 16th.  Four hours after JetBlue promoted this $4-plus tax, 45-minute flights, they were sold out even though most of the 45-minutes entailed taxiing on the ground. I have to admit that I sort of don`t get this. Isn`t this a colossal waste of fuel and time?

Well, Los Angeles, it appears you will be in for a long weekend.  So, as you travel on your roads remember to mind your manners and look out for each other. Also keep in mind the words of one of your most famous residents, Rodney King, "Can`t we all just get along?"

JetBlue: `Carmageddon flights` across L.A. sell out