Frustrating jams slow traffic flow

Friday, April 10, 2009
By Adam Folk
Staff Writer

Traffic was supposed to run smoothly on the first day of this year's Masters Tournament, but don't talk to Dr. Dan Rahn about running.

Stuck in a large and unexpected traffic jam on Berckmans Road, the president of the Medical College of Georgia left his car to jog three-quarters of a mile to make a commitment to speak at the Red Carpet Tour.

"I'm sweating," he told the group of business executives visiting Augusta National. "Not because I'm nervous, but because I was sitting out on Berckmans Road when I heard the sirens as your buses were on the road ahead of me."

Others probably wished they could have joined him Thursday morning, when new parking and traffic patterns frustrated many approaching Augusta National Golf Club and Berckmans Road via Wheeler Road and Walton Way. Traffic officials suspect that many tournament regulars -- used to old ways of getting to the course -- ignored the road signs, radio updates and mailed instructions.

For today, officials urge patrons to enter the free parking areas by way of Washington Road, but to seek alternate ways to get there -- such as River Watch Parkway and Martintown Road in North Augusta. Signs on both routes direct golf patrons to the course.

The traffic jams at both ends of Berckmans Road seemed to increase the troubles caused by several minor incidents near Interstate 20.

"It's been pretty heavy for a tournament day," said Steve Cassell, Richmond County traffic engineer .

The day had a little bit of everything. A broken-down charter bus full of children and a slow-moving, oversize truck caused long lines on I-20 westbound that stretched from Washington Road to South Carolina.

"This is a whole different animal from the last few days," Mr. Cassell said.

Officials also said many motorists didn't initially use the proper entrances for the new parking lots, accessible from Stanley Drive and a new access road behind the Publix shopping center.

Business Editor Tim Rausch contributed to this article.