Parking and traffic flow issues continued to plague the gameday experience of many Ole Miss fans, but planning officials caution that patience is the only practical remedy.
“We fixed some of the previous problems but new issues cropped up,” explained Jimmy Allgood Oxford’s emergency and gameday operations planner. “The big perspective that people need to understand is this: Oxford is a small town with a transportation infrastructure designed to meet the needs of a small town. When 60,000 to 70,000 people try to leave here at the same time on roads never intended to support that volume of traffic, delays are inevitable.”
While urging patience, Allgood added that some traffic flow modifications are planned for the LSU game. Allgood explained that Gertrude Ford, Blvd. will be open to all public traffic until game time, instead of shutting down two hours before the opening whistle. “That means cars and taxis will be able to drop people off and pick them up,” he said. “Beginning at 6 p.m. though, the road will be open to Shuttles only. We have to have a clear, safe way to transport people who want to leave early or who are facing an emergency.”
Allgood conceded that planners overestimated the traffic flow capabilities of Molly Bar Road last week. Officials will direct less traffic in that direction for the LSU game. Shuttle pickup points remain at the Activities Center, Oxford Conference Center, the Old Mall, the former Whirlpool lot, Oxford Middle School and McElroy Drive near the post office.
Allgood is hopeful that an earlier kickoff time for the LSU game — 6 p.m. — will result in more fans migrating to the square and back to the Grove after the game, allowing traffic to flow out of town more gradually.
“I advise people to walk to the Square and enjoy themselves safely,” Allgood said. “Bars and restaurants will still be open. If you’re at the Grove consider returning to your tent and relaxing a while until the crowds clear.”
Relax — not a word you connect to the recent football-related transportation issues facing Oxford and Ole Miss. But Allgood cautions the frustration many feel is the direct result of a rising football program overage and network-dictated starting times. “The challenges of getting people out of town smoothly after a prime-time night game is far more difficult than the Saturday afternoon starts we have seen in the past,” he said. “We want a nationally ranked program and national TV coverage, but delays and congestion are part of the price you pay.
Allgood differs with those who say past all-campus access on gameday created smoother traffic flow. “Sure you got back to your vehicle quicker and that comforts people, but you still waited and hour to an hour and a half when you made your way back to the public roads,” he added.
Following is a small sampling of the more than 200 Facebook comments Hottytoddy.com received from game attendees about their parking and traffic experience. While not a scientific survey, responses ran more than 90 percent negative.
• “The parking issue sure has put a damper on everything. I have season tickets but if parking doesn’t get better I may have to rethink buying season’s tickets again. No better atmosphere than last night at the game but afterwards was a nightmare.”
• “They should talk to Auburn. That was the best experience we’ve had so far.”
• “MDOT was directing traffic at Old Taylor and University and was sending everyone east on University Ave., not onto Old Taylor, which clears some of the congestion better. Closing Gertrude Ford is a big problem.” (See Allgood’s remarks above.)
• “Had no problems at all. Got in Lot 10 and easily was out of lot and onto the Highway 6 in under 10-15 minutes.”
• “We got to the NWCC about 3:30 p.m. and had many places to choose from. Great tour busses were shuttling in and dropping off below Depot Drive. We left early so we didn’t experience the darkness but our situation was good.”
Andy Knef, Managing Editor, HottyToddy.com