The fifth year of the giant music and arts festival, held Friday, Saturday and Sunday outside of Manchester, has the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) getting ready for all the extra vehicles. TDOT strategies for handling the increased volume were planned well in advance and will be implemented before the festival begins.
This year's concert line-up features Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Radiohead, Beck, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many more. Up to 80,000 attendees are expected with most camping at the site.
According to a statement from TDOT, travelers on Interstate 24 will be impacted, as well as those using state routes and local roads. State and local officials have met with festival promoters several times during the year to plan for handling through traffic and vehicles entering and exiting the festival area.
The plan will accommodate the estimated 35,000 vehicles expected to arrive in the Manchester area. A temporary exit at mile marker 112 has been built by the promoters to provide an additional entrance into the site. Festival traffic will park on site.
"Each year the Bonnaroo Festival has been a learning experience for the representatives of the multiple agencies who work together keeping traffic moving," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "We take what we learn and use that knowledge to improve our traffic plan for the next year. Quick and efficient movement of traffic during this time is always our objective."
Gates at the festival will open at 7 a.m. Thursday and HELP units from TDOT's Chattanooga office will be in the area assisting with traffic management during peak traffic times.
According to festival organizers, the primary access route to the festival will be I-24 from Nashville and Chattanooga. Traffic will also be coming from Route 55. From Nashville signs will direct attendees to use Exit 111 to Route 55. From 55 they will turn right on Ragsdale Road and then use Bushy Branch Road. The section of Bushy Branch Road used will be one-way toward the Festival site on Thursday and Friday.
From Chattanooga, signs will direct attendees to temporary Exit 112, directly into the site. Organizers state that during the heaviest travel periods, traffic is likely to back up onto I-24. When this occurs police will take action to reduce the congestion by directing festival traffic to contingency routes.
Exit ramps in the peak direction will be closed at Exits 114 and 117. Exits 97, 105, 112 (temporary exit on westbound side only), 117 and 127 are alternate exits if congestion occurs on the interstate.
In addition to having HELP trucks on the scene, TDOT and other agencies will be taking the following steps to keep traffic flowing.
*TDOT maintenance units will be posted throughout the festival region, and maintenance personnel will be on call all weekend. Variable message signs to warn drivers of delays will be provided and there will be no construction-related lane closures on I-24 near the festival area between June 14 and June 19.
*Median crossovers will be guarded to prevent motorists from parking in the crossovers and blocking emergency vehicles. Festival traffic will be kept in the right lane and/or on the shoulder of the interstate, letting through traffic have the left lane unimpeded.
*Emergency vehicles will use county roads that will be kept at low volume. Bonnaroo promoters have issued early news releases to the trucking industry and other sources so the traveling public will be informed of festival times and location and possibly reroute some of their vehicles.
*Temporary communications towers are also in place to improve emergency communications. To receive Bonnaroo traffic updates on this weekend motorists are asked to consult the TDOT website, www.tennessee.gov/tdot, or call the department's toll-free hotline (800) 858-6349 for traffic updates.