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Closed Calif. freeway expected to open early

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- A temporarily closed section of one of Southern California's busiest freeways was expected to reopen earlier than expected Sunday, after workers demolished a bridge.

The work along a 4-mile strip of Interstate 405 in Orange County had raised fears of agonizing traffic jams, but officials reported only minor congestion around detours.

State Transportation Department spokesman David Richardson said the southbound lanes should be open by 2 p.m., several hours ahead of schedule, with the northbound side following about an hour later.

Extensive publicity before the construction work appears to have convinced most drivers to stay away from the area. As many as 300,000 vehicles pass through the stretch of freeway on a typical weekend day.

"Obviously you are going to have some congestion" with a piece of a busy freeway shut down, Richardson said.

The closed section of I-405 is near its junction with State Route 22 and Interstate 605.

Workers helming cranes and bulldozers began ripping up the 700-foot bridge Saturday night. The demolition is part of a $277 million project to link carpool lanes between the freeways.

The shutdown is the latest freeway closure in Southern California to stir fears of epic traffic snarls, but those worries have so far not come to fruition.

The closure of a section of I-405 in Los Angeles in 2011, followed by a similar shutdown there last year, did not result in what was dubbed "Carmageddon." At the time, motorists heeded months of warnings to stay off the roads, and the traffic was unusually light.

In Orange County, officials spent nearly a year to prepare for the shutdown on the I-405. To get the word out, they distributed tens of thousands of fliers, illuminated freeway signs around the region with warnings and dubbed the closure the "Bridge Bash."

Later Sunday, a section of freeway in San Diego County is scheduled to close for 14 hours while a bridge is demolished. Officials are warning motorists to steer clear of the work on the 7-mile stretch of Interstate 805 or face a possible traffic snarls, UT San Diego reported (http://bit.ly/1a7X2QV ).

State transportation workers plan to shut both sides of the busy interstate at 3 p.m. Sunday through 5 a.m. Monday. The closure will run from state Route 905 near San Ysidro to Route 54 in Chula Vista, near the border with Mexico.

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