Nashville, Tenn. - For nine years, Middle Tennessee has played host to one of the premiere live music events in the country - the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The popular festival has people from all walks of life and from all corners of the country making the small city of Manchester in Coffee County their temporary home for several days each June.
As in years past, more than 80,000 music lovers are expected to attend this year's festival, which kicks off Thursday night, June 10, and winds down Sunday night, June 13.
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 resulting from Bonnaroo attendees.
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.
TDOT and the THP are working closely with the City of Manchester Police Department, the Coffee County Sheriff's Department and festival promoters to keep traffic moving on I-24 while also getting Bonnaroonies to their destinations. The agencies and festival promoters have worked throughout the year on a plan to efficiently handle traffic during the festival.
"Planning ahead for the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is critical because of its effect on area traffic," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely.
"In recent years, our coordinated plan has worked very well to minimize the impact to travelers while safely getting festival-goers into and out of the Bonnaroo site, and we expect the same results this year."
All festival gates open Thursday, June 10 at 7:00 a.m. CDT. State Troopers will be on the job 24 hours a day beginning Wednesday night, patrolling and controlling traffic on I-24. The THP will work both on the ground and in the air, using helicopters to assess the scene from above and relay important information to the marked patrol cars and motorcycles on the ground.
"Many Tennessee State Troopers will be working around the clock to make sure that I-24 stays clear and accident-free for both travelers and festival-goers," stated THP Colonel Mike Walker. "We will be vigilantly enforcing traffic laws while assisting TDOT, local law enforcement and festival organizers in effectively dealing with the increased traffic volume."
During Bonnaroo 2009, Troopers logged over 6,000 man-hours, worked 24 traffic crashes (6 injury, and 18 property damage crashes), and wrote 217 citations and 73 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 be in the festival area to assist with traffic management during peak traffic times and to aid any motorists who require assistance.
In addition to having HELP trucks on the scene, TDOT and other agencies are taking the following steps on the dates surrounding Bonnaroo beginning June 9 through June 14:
• Efforts will be concentrated on keeping interstate 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 9 and June 14.
• 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 you will 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.
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.