For over a decade, 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 7, and winds down Sunday night, June 10.
With 80,000 festival-goers converging at an old farm site in Coffee County, the area in and around Manchester always sees increased traffic traffic throughout the festival. As Manchester prepares to welcome a multitude of visitors, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Highway Patrol are 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.
“Keeping traffic moving on I-24 while getting festival goers in and out of Bonnaroo is an enormous challenge for both TDOT and the THP,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Through advance planning and coordination, along with years of experience, we will minimize delays as much as possible throughout the weekend.”
This year, Bonnaroo will open its gates on Wednesday evening June 6 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 the ground and by air. THP helicopters will assist in relaying important information to marked patrol cars and motorcycles on the ground.
“State Troopers will be out in force, working to control the congestion caused by Bonnaroo, and aggressively enforcing state traffic laws,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “It is our goal to ensure the safety of both travelers and festival-goers.”
During Bonnaroo 2011, Troopers logged nearly 5,800 man-hours, worked 20 traffic crashes (6 injury, and 14 property damage crashes), and wrote 182 citations and 42 warnings. A breakdown of all THP-issued citations during last year’s festival period is included in this release.
TDOT HELP units will assist with traffic management during the festival and will aid any motorists who require assistance. Also, for the first time, the speed limit on I-24 in the festival area will be reduced to 55 mph for the duration of the festival. The speed reduction will be in effect between mile marker 104.6 (just west of Exit 105) and mile marker 129.4, where the speed limit currently drops to 55 mph to go over Monteagle Mountain. After the festival is over, the speed limit will be restored to its normal level.
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 6 through June 11:
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 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6 through 7 p.m. on Monday, June 11.
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 http://m.tdot.tn.gov/SmartWay/ to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs 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 (*847) 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.