ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE – AEDC police have a message for base workers and other people who use Interstate 24 on a day-to-day basis: find another way June 8-12.
June 8 is the day police expect tens of thousands of people to start arriving at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival site in Manchester – and backing up Interstate 24 for miles.
“Our recommendation would be if you can find a different route to work other than I-24, especially that Wednesday morning (June 8), you should probably take it,” said AEDC police Chief Rick Trull.
As in years past, AEDC police expect I-24’s emergency lane will serve as the official line for getting into Bonnaroo. Exits 110, 111, 114 and 117 – which is the AEDC exit – will all be closed to Bonnaroo traffic. Police believe U.S. Highway 41, which also feeds into the Bonnaroo site, will also be backed up.
Bonnaroo attendees on I-24 eastbound will be routed past the Manchester exit down to exit 127, where they will loop around and join the line going westbound for the festival. While local traffic and people traveling to AEDC for work will be able to get off at exit 117, they will have to cross through the Bonnaroo traffic line and have a good reason to get off I-24. Having a base ID badge helps but is not necessary.
Tennessee Highway Patrol officers will be stopping those who get off at the base exit. AEDC police will provide mutual assistance if possible, Trull said, but manpower is uncertain due to Arnold AFB being under Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Bravo. U.S. Northern Command elevated the FPCON from Alpha in early May.
The elevation means more security is needed on base and may not be available to assist state troopers on the Interstate – many of whom are brought in from as far away as Jackson or Knoxville to help out on Bonnaroo weekend.
“Obviously, our first priority will be FPCON Bravo posting and equal to that will be test posting,” Trull said. “If there are test posts to man, then that takes an equivalent to an FPCON Bravo posting. Getting Bonnaroo traffic through is important, but it’s lower on the priority chart for us than the Air Force mission. We’ll do all that we can, but that will be our priority.”
AEDC workers who travel from south and west of the base to work shouldn’t see much difference other than heavier than normal traffic, said AEDC police Lt. Kevin Syler. Syler, who coordinates AEDC’s Bonnaroo traffic planning, says those who live north and east of the base should start planning an alternate route from Wednesday through the remainder of the week.
“Logistically, it’s just kind of a nightmare for two whole days, and it happens all the way through the night on Wednesday nights and Thursday nights,” Syler said. “So it’s not that it’s a daytime thing and the nighttime people don’t have to worry about it. It’s around the clock.”
And even those who decide to brave the Interstate and expect to get off at the exit may be in for a rude awakening, Syler said, even if they have a good reason to get through.
“Something could happen at our exit,” he said. “We could have a wreck or other emergency, and we would end up with ambulances and more police vehicles. Then you wouldn’t be able to get off at all, even if we wanted to let you off.”
The bottom line, Syler said, is to avoid the area and find an alternate route to work starting the morning of June 8 if at all possible. Once the weekend gets underway, he expects to still see some heavy traffic, but it should die down.
“A lot of the Bonnaroo traffic will head out Sunday evening; a lot of them will wait until Monday,” he said. “So we haven’t seen an issue with the exiting like there is with the arrival. Everyone’s wanting to get here when the green flag drops, but everybody kind of filters out at the end of it.”