NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Despite 80,000 music fans expected on a four-lane interstate highway, Tennessee transportation officials say traffic should flow smoothly for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which begins today.
Opening day is always the heaviest for the festival near Manchester, about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga along Interstate 24.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn in Chattanooga said the traffic plan that emerged from the first Bonnaroo in 2002 and has since been refined vastly improved the flow. Planning involves a host of state and local agencies, those in other states and commercial outfits such as trucking companies.
Flynn said TDOT became aware of the initial Bonnaroo when organizers asked if the agency could set up a few portable message boards to help direct traffic.
She conceded officials were caught 'flat-footed' and recalled the result as being 'a perfect storm' of traffic trouble.
'The traffic was backed up for miles, people had run out of gas, broken down, overheated,' Flynn said.
To complicate the matter, TDOT had a construction project underway in the area.
This year, dozens of extra officers will be working in Coffee County, helping to keep traffic moving.
'Nearly 100 Tennessee State Troopers will be working around the clock to help make that happen,' said Col. Mike Walker, who commands the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Coffee County deputies, Manchester Police and TDOT help trucks will also be employed in the process.
Flynn said constant communication and flexibility aid a solid traffic management plan to help both festivalgoers and those just trying to drive through.
She said drivers headed for Bonnaroo will be directed to use the right lane and the shoulder - through-traffic is directed into the left lane.
'It slows down,' Flynn said, 'But it keeps moving.'