published Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Interstate 24 speed limit for Bonnaroo dropped to 55 mph

Traffic is backed up for hours along Interstate 24 westbound toward Manchester, Tenn., before a previous Bonnaroo festival.
Traffic is backed up for hours along Interstate 24 westbound toward Manchester, Tenn., before a previous Bonnaroo festival.
Photo by Staff File Photo.
June 13-16 • Manchester, TN

NOT GOING TO BONNAROO?

If you have no plans to attend Bonnaroo but still must drive through the festival area in Coffee County from Thursday to Sunday, the Tennessee Department of Transportation suggests several detours to get around traffic snarls.

Like a return trip to the 1970s, the speed limit on 25 miles of Interstate 24 later this week will drop to 55 mph to improve safety for travelers during the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

It's all about safety, officials said. The temporary speed limit, now in its second year, affects I-24 from mile marker 104.6 to mile marker 129.4 and remains in effect until the festival is over Sunday night.

Tennessee's Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation are teaming up with the Coffee County Sheriff's Office and Manchester Police Department to keep traffic moving as the festival-faithful, numbering 80,000 or more, start piling into the county today.

Gates this year open at 8 p.m. CDT today to give people more time to get their vehicles into the campgrounds.

Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves said Tuesday that traffic will start picking up this morning and grow heavier this evening and into Friday when many working travelers start to arrive.

BY THE NUMBERS

2012 Bonnaroo motor vehicle violations written by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, moving and nonmoving.

NONMOVING

18: Child passenger restraint

252: Safety belt

99: Driver license

24: Revoked/suspended license

98: Registration

4: Open alcohol container

3: Misdemeanor drugs

240: Other

MOVING

276: Speeding

14: Driving under the influence

5: Reckless driving

15: Disregarding signal/sign controls

37: Other

Source: Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security

"It really gets busy," Graves said. "Last year, our busy time was early morning on Thursday. We were lucky last year because it was a steady stream instead of everybody showing up at once."

The earlier opening on Wednesday is intended to spread and ease the flow of traffic.

"The priority is to make this year's festival safe and secure for travelers and festivalgoers," Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said in a news release. "State troopers will work to manage the increased traffic on Interstate 24 and provide aerial support to relay important information on the ground."

The state's bright green HELP trucks will be on standby, officials said. Other plans include moving inbound festival traffic to the right lane and/or the right shoulder.

"We won't have any significant lane closures on I-24 or any of the detour routes," TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said Tuesday, noting that even small projects on the detour routes won't cause any problems.

Flynn said that since TDOT began dealing with Bonnaroo in 2002, officials have tweaked efforts to make travel smoother each year.

The sheriff said people should stay as informed as possible about traffic accidents or other unforeseen traffic stalls. Traffic around Manchester will get heavy around noon on Saturday and Sunday as festivalgoers arise and head into town for supplies, food or just to cool off for a while, he said.

The average wait in line to enter the festival is between two and three hours, Graves said, so "bring your patience."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@times freepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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