Freeway closed? Just take 10 to 110 to 5, Angelenos Say.

In the big city, the 10 freeway is the main character, running through the belly of Los Angeles and offering a real shot from downtown to the Pacific Ocean – with a hazy view of the Hollywood sign along the way.

It also serves as a central artery for commuters traveling to and from the San Gabriel Valley, a constellation of cities of more than 1.5 million residents east of Los Angeles. During rush hour (and sometimes any random hour), it’s where drivers sit bumper-to-bumper, restlessly pacing forward.

A recent fire that closed a nearly two-mile stretch of highway created what would appear to be a disaster for a city already overwhelmed with traffic problems. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. Mayor Karen Bass urged residents to stay at home. And shockingly: It will be weeks before the affected section of Interstate 10 reopens.

Still, for many residents, the consequences were less catastrophic and more like just another nuisance to Los Angeles. The closure creates personal and employment difficulties, for sure. But there’s a sense that if you’re used to driving in Los Angeles, you’ve already honed the skills you need for this moment: mustering a kind of patience, maneuvering side streets and alternate routes, filling in estimated driving times.

“Driving in L.A. is like a circus for people who aren’t used to it,” said Renee Jenkins, a hospital nurse who spent nearly 90 minutes in a car — twice the usual time — to get from her to a patient in downtown Los Angeles. Angeles home in Norwalk.

“For new people, to see what’s going on with 10, I think they’d say, ‘What the hell? What’s happening?” she said. “Like I was when I first went to New York and saw Times Square. But here, it’s quite normal for me.”

In Southern California’s car-centric culture, traffic is a never-ending grievance, a never-ending source of misery. There’s a reason residents always bring up the routes they drive, talk about going 10 to 110 to 5 to point of ridicule. That’s because driving guidelines are a way of life here, and road traffic is the great equalizer, pitted against all.

Spanning 500 square miles, the city of Los Angeles is a vast expanse of diverse neighborhoods designed for car travel. While the regional network of bus and rail options has improved in recent years, it’s still difficult to get potential riders to use mass transit when it may mean more than one transfer, saving no time. High gas prices don’t seem to have bothered most drivers.

Being trapped in a vehicle and constantly, sometimes desperately, trying to find a less painful route just comes with the territory.

For Ms Jenkins, 44, her suddenly longer journey has been grueling. But she also described the 10 Freeway closure as “no big deal.” After seeing her patient, she stuck to her routine of attending a nearby kickboxing class instead of rushing home before traffic worsened.

“There’s always something going on in LA,” she said. “We’re just used to it.”

On Monday, Mayor Bass asked Southern California residents for patience and reminded them that they have been through similar emergencies before, including one on another stretch of the same freeway. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake caused the collapse of two bridges on the 10 Freeway; they were rebuilt in less than three months by crews working 24 hours a day.

Gov. Newsom said Tuesday that 10 will be repaired even faster this time — in three to five weeks — after civil engineers determined the elevated road would not need to be torn down and rebuilt. Instead, crews will reinforce 100 support poles that were damaged in Saturday morning’s fire, which burned in an area under the freeway where vehicles and wooden cargo pallets were stored. State leaders initially feared it would take five to six months to reopen the highway if reconstruction was needed, Mr. Newsom said.

Miguel Guzman, a manager at a hydroponic store near the burning stretch of freeway southeast of downtown, compared the closure to what happens on Lakers or Dodgers game nights when roads in the area are congested. On Monday morning, he said, his usual 20-minute commute from Downey took up to an hour.

“It was boring, and it’s not something I like to do, but we’ll definitely find a way out of it – there are side streets,” said Mr. Guzman, 24. “It’s just going to require us to be a little more prepared.”

It may also help that residents are not far from closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when office workers have stayed at home. Mayor Bass urged employers in the city to allow telecommuting whenever possible, and some workers said they plan to rely on it as often as they can.

Others who didn’t have a daily need to use the affected section of the 10 Freeway said they might just avoid the area — even though nearby freeways and streets could be badly affected, putting a burden on local businesses and residents.

“My friends South of 10: It was nice knowing you,” Miguel Parreno, an aspiring screenwriter living in North Hollywood, posted online.

“It’s the kind of joke you get if you understand LA,” Mr. Parreno, 35, said later in an interview. “Like, people in the valley don’t normally see people on the Westside because it takes so long to get anywhere.”

Los Angeles area residents who endure long commutes often find they have less tolerance for leaving the house to socialize. Even a few miles can seem like a gulf too wide to cross.

“That’s the L.A. mindset: If it’s inconvenient and it’s going to be difficult to get there, I’d rather just not go,” said Bryant Horowitz, a psychology professor at East Los Angeles College.

Mr. Horowitz, 45, lives in Culver City, and is one of those who relied on the burned stretch of highway to get to work. He scrambled to find an alternate route and managed to find one that only added 10 minutes to his normal commute. Having grown up in Los Angeles, he knows the ins and outs of its freeways and back streets and the best times to drive them.

“Navigation,” he said, “is part of the culture of LA.”

Jill Cowan contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

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