NASHVILLE – For ten years, the Middle Tennessee city of Manchester in Coffee County has hosted one of the most popular live music events in the country - the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The festival is a four-day, multi-stage music festival held on a 700-acre farm.
Thousands of people from all over the country make the yearly trip to attend the festival, and Manchester becomes their temporary home for several days in June. As in years past, over 80,000 music lovers are expected to attend this year’s festival, which kicks off Thursday night, June 9, and winds down Sunday night, June 12.
With 80,000 festival-goers converging at an old farm site in Coffee County, the area in and around Manchester always sees much heavier traffic throughout the festival. As Manchester prepares to welcome the multitude of visitors to their city, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Highway Patrol do some preparing of their own by gearing up for the extra traffic expected in the area.
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 evening June 8 at 7:00 p.m. CDT to allow more time for vehicles to enter the campgrounds. Historically, the longest delays for arriving attendees have occurred from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 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,” stated 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 (8 injury, and 31 property damage crashes), and wrote 221 citations and seven warnings. A breakdown of all THP-issued citations during last year’s festival period is attached to this release.
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 June 8 through June 13:
Efforts will be concentrated on keeping I-24 traffic flowing.
Exit 111 (SR 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.
TDOT maintenance units will be posted throughout the festival region, and maintenance personnel will be on call all weekend.
TDOT will provide variable message signs to warn drivers of delays.
There will be no construction-related lane closures on I-24 near the Bonnaroo festival area between 3 p.m. June 8 through June 13.
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, allowing through traffic to utilize the left travel lane unimpeded.
Emergency vehicles will use county roads that will be kept at low volume.
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.
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. For statewide traffic tweets follow TN511 or for regional traffic information follow Nashville511, Chattanooga511, Memphis511 and Knoxville511. Smart phone users can use the new TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs (this feature not yet available in Chattanooga) and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.
Also, drivers should keep in mind that if they need the assistance of a Trooper while traveling anywhere in Tennessee, they can simply dial *THP from their cell phone. They will be automatically connected to the nearest THP dispatch office and the operator will send a Trooper to their location.