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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Heavy Bonnaroo traffic invades Bedford County through weekend

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bonnaroo detour map.
(Tennessee Department of Transportation)
Just because Bonnaroo is on the other side of a neighboring county, don't think it won't affect you. According to a suggested route from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, many of the drivers wanting to avoid the traffic backup on Interstate 24 outside of Manchester are being redirected -- through Bedford County.

"Take I-24 east to exit 81, US-231 south/west to US-41A south/east to I-24 through Shelbyville, Tullahoma and Cowan," stated the TDOT press release.

Of course, they also offer alternative routes through McMinnville and Pulaski, depending on where you are and where you want to be.

This year marks the 10th time the 700+ acre farm in Coffee County has opened its gates for a four-day music festival, and each year, the numbers seem to grow. For four days. Bonnaroo will be the sixth largest "city" in Tennessee, with an estimated 80,000 people attending.

According to the Bonnaroo staff, it's the biggest music festival in North America in attendance and acreage and people have come from all 50 states and nearly 30 different countries.

The first year seemed to catch both local and state law enforcement officials off guard and traffic was a nightmare, blocking I-24 from Murfreesboro to Monteagle. Since then, agencies have worked hard on coordinating efforts and while there still may be a wait to get in, many of the traffic issues have been eased.

As Manchester prepares to welcome the multitude of visitors, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Highway Patrol do some preparing of their own by gearing up for the extra traffic.

TDOT and the THP are working closely with the Manchester Police Department, the Coffee County Sheriff's Department and festival promoters to keep traffic moving on I-24 while also getting Bonnaroo attendees to their destinations. The agencies and festival promoters have worked throughout the year on a plan to efficiently handle traffic during the festival.

"In the past years, our coordinated plan has worked well to lessen the impact to travelers while getting festival-goers into and out of the Bonnaroo site, and we expect the same excellent results this year," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. "As long as the Bonnaroo Festival is held in Middle Tennessee, we will continue to plan ahead for it with the goal of improving our plan each year."

This year, Bonnaroo will open its gates on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to allow more time for vehicles to enter the campgrounds. Historically, the longest delays for arriving attendees have occurred from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, so festival promoters have implemented the new plan this year in hopes of alleviating some of the congestion.

State troopers will be on the job 24 hours a day beginning Wednesday night, patrolling on ground and by air. THP helicopters will assist in relaying important information to marked patrol cars and motorcycles on the ground.

"Our priority is to maintain a safe and secure festival," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "With the help of TDOT and local law enforcement agencies, state troopers will work around the clock to manage increased traffic volume on Interstate 24 and ensure motorists are obeying the traffic laws in Tennessee."

During Bonnaroo 2010, troopers logged over 6,500 man-hours, worked 39 traffic crashes (eight injury and 31 property damage) and wrote 221 citations and seven warnings.

HELP units from TDOT's Chattanooga office will also assist with traffic management during peak traffic times and will aid any motorists who require assistance.

In addition to having HELP trucks on site, TDOT and other agencies will be taking the following steps on the dates surrounding Bonnaroo beginning Wednesday through Monday:

l Efforts will be concentrated on keeping I-24 traffic flowing.

l Exit 111 (State Highway 55) will be used as the main festival exit. Exits 97, 105, 112 (temporary exit on westbound side only), 117 and 127 are alternate exits if congestion occurs on the interstate.

l TDOT maintenance units will be posted throughout the festival region, and maintenance personnel will be on call all weekend.

l TDOT will provide variable message signs to warn drivers of delays.

l There will be no construction-related lane closures on I-24 near the Bonnaroo festival area from 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.

l Median crossovers will be guarded to prevent motorists from parking in the crossovers and blocking emergency vehicles.

l Festival traffic will be kept in the right lane and/or on the shoulder of the interstate, allowing through traffic to utilize the left travel lane unimpeded.

l Emergency vehicles will use county roads that will be kept at low volume.

l Bonnaroo promoters issued early news releases to the trucking industry and other sources to alert the traveling public to festival times, location, and alternate routes.

l Temporary communication towers are in place to improve emergency communications.

During the festival motorists should call 511 from any mobile or land line phone for traffic updates or visit the TDOT website at www.tn.gov/tdot where they can also find information on alternate routes. TDOT is also on Twitter.

Smart phone users can use the new TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at http://m.tdot.tn.gov/SmartWay/ to access TDOT's SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.

Also, drivers in need of a trooper's assistance anywhere in Tennessee can dial *THP on their cell phone.

This alternate route (highlighted in purple) will diminish through traffic on Interstate 24, while increasing traffic in Bedford County along U.S. 231 North and U.S. 41A South.