Friday, August 18, 2000
Big weekend in Tristate means big snarl in traffic
Second Street opening tonight after delay
By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
With Fort Washington Way still unfinished, traffic tie-ups and jammed streets likely will greet the hundreds of thousands of people expected to hit Cincinnati starting today for one of the summer's biggest party weekends.
Officials predict as many as 130,000 people will visit downtown on Saturday for the Bengals opener, a Reds game and the Black Family Reunion at Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point.
We're suggesting that people who drive give themselves at least another hour to make it downtown, Cincinnati Transportation Director John Deatrick said. Of course, we're suggesting that people don't drive and take the bus.
A new eastbound section of Second Street to Vine Street is opening at 7 p.m. Friday night. The opening, which was originally scheduled for 5 a.m. this morning but delayed due to rain and thunderstorms last night, will include exits to I-71/75 north, I-75 south, US 50 East and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge in both directions. Bridges connecting Second Street with Elm, Race and Vine over Fort Washingtown Way will also open this evening. The rest of Second Street including crucial exits onto Interstate 75 and Columbia Parkway will not be completed until month's end.
There are concerts, sporting events and festivals scheduled all over the Tristate this weekend.
The Black Family Reunion is expected to draw as many as 50,000 people on both Saturday and Sunday. The Reds are expected to draw 35,000 or so Saturday and Sunday against Pittsburgh, and the Bengals will christen the new Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night against the Chicago Bears in front of at least 55,000 fans.
In addition, the Kids Expo at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center will draw at least 2,000 on Saturday and Sunday. And three major acts Jimmy Buffett, Pearl Jam and Christina Aguilera have sold out Riverbend all weekend while '80s hit machine Duran Duran plays Timberwolf at Kings Island on Saturday.
Downtown could see as many as 35,000 vehicles in and out of the area throughout the day, officials said.
That creates the potential for a huge traffic jam, especially because many area drivers are unfamiliar with the new Fort Washington Way road system.
I don't know if it's the biggest we've ever had, but it's definitely up there with Riverfest, said Cincinnati Police Lt. Ron Higgins, director of District One's event planning unit. We're putting an officer on every street corner south of Sixth Street just to keep traffic moving. We'll be busy, I'm sure.
Lt. Higgins said there would be no repeat of Wednesday's traffic crunch, caused by a larger-than-anticipated crowd for an open house at Paul Brown Stadium. Pedestrians flooded Third Street, causing gridlock throughout southwestern downtown.
I didn't leave work until 8 p.m., and there were still 10 cars ahead of me trying to get out, said Greg Stevens, who works and parks at 312 Elm St., located across from the new stadium. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the building, much less on the highway.
The influx of cars will also stress parking.
Most of the spots by Cinergy Field or Paul Brown Stadium will be taken by Reds and Bengals season ticket holders, leaving others to scramble for the rest of the estimated 30,000 spots throughout downtown. Traffic officials estimate that there are about 12,000 spots within four or five blocks of the two stadiums.
Officials recommended looking for parking north of Fifth Street and walking to either stadium or to Bicentennial Commons for the Family Reunion.
The garage at 312 Elm Street will charge $5 early in the day for the Reds, and then $10 beginning two hours before the Bengals play.
Officials said pricing patterns should vary throughout downtown, depending upon location.
Congested traffic is expected elsewhere in the Tristate, especially near Paramount's Kings Island because of the Duran Duran concert Saturday and on Kellogg Avenue and Interstate 275 in Anderson Township because of the Riverbend concerts: Jimmy Buffett on Saturday, Pearl Jam on Sunday and Christina Aguilera on Monday.
But Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Steve Barnett said getting cars in and out of the facility has gotten a lot easier over the past two years with the widening of Kellogg Avenue and the elimination of parking fees for ticket holders.
It will still be a bit of a mess, but it's something we're used to, said Mr. Barnett said, who said off-duty Hamilton County deputies will be helping direct traffic.
It shouldn't mean any worse than any other sold-out shows, and we'll have the appropriate people handling it. It may go slow, but it'll be orderly.
Tips for beating the traffic
Traffic reports at Cincinnati.com/traffic
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