Arrive early. Leave later. Drive carefully.
That's the advice Keeneland and Lexington police have for racing patrons as they prepare to navigate the reconstruction of U.S. 60 on the way to the track. Keeneland's spring meet starts Friday and continues through April 26.
Work began in February on a $20.7 million project to resurface U.S. 60 from Martha Layne Collins Blue Grass Parkway in Woodford County to New Circle Road in Fayette County. Keeneland President Bill Thomason asks patrons to be patient, use common sense, and take a little more time.
"Am I concerned? Of course," Thomason said Wednesday. "Do I think it will have an effect? My hope is that we are overreacting to what the effect's going to be. I think we're going to efficiently move people into Keeneland."
If people plan for delays, it will mean minimal disruption, Thomason said. He suggested that people leave 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual for their trek to the track.
As many as 10,000 vehicles park at Keeneland on a typical Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and perhaps 6,000 go to the track on a weekday, Thomason said. But lane closings mean that U.S. 60's capacity is down to about 40 percent of normal, said Lexington Police Lt. J.J. Lombardi.
"I can tell you with all honesty: Be prepared for delays," Lombardi said Wednesday at a Keeneland news conference. "We're going to do everything we can to help facilitate traffic flow safely and expeditiously."
It is possible to get to the track and avoid Gate 1, the entrance across from Man o' War Boulevard that takes patrons to free parking, and Gate 2, the entrance across from Blue Grass Airport that takes patrons to paid and clubhouse parking.
An alternative entrance is to turn right onto Van Meter Road off westbound 60, which can take patrons to free and tailgate parking. (Tailgate parking, which Keeneland now dubs as "The Hill," is next to the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center and is available to patrons at no charge.) Motorists driving west from Lexington on 60 arrive at Van Meter Road before reaching Gate 1 at Man o' War.
Turning from Old Frankfort Pike onto Rice Road is an alternative route for traffic coming from the west. By taking Rice Road, you can get to Gate 3 at Back Gate Road on Keeneland's northwestern edge, and from there go to free parking.
As of Wednesday, police plan to allow eastbound traffic on U.S. 60 to turn left onto Rice Road. But Lombardi said that could change, depending on whether problems arise. "This plan is a work in progress," he said.
Signboards on New Circle Road prior to Old Frankfort Pike on the outer loop and prior to Versailles Road on the inner loop will alert motorists to the alternate route via Old Frankfort Pike, Lombardi said.
"The goal is to try to alleviate some congestion on Versailles Road (U.S. 60)," Lombardi said.
The state Department of Highways said this week that all lanes of Man o' War will be open to allow traffic to cross U.S. 60 onto the Keeneland grounds. "That's what we're hearing," Lombardi said.
An additional squad of traffic officers will be deployed Friday, Saturday and Sunday to assist the traffic flow on Versailles Road and Old Frankfort Pike, he said. A helicopter will give an overall view from above to assist in that. Traffic engineers will have a command post at Keeneland to relay adjustments as they need to be made.
"Be patient with us," Lombardi said. "We'll get'em in and we'll get'em out. Our primary concern is the safety of the motoring public."
Patrons might want to come early. Keeneland's Sunrise Track program takes place each Saturday and includes breakfast, equine demonstrations, a question-and-answer session with jockeys, and free tours.
Also, beginning at 11 a.m. each Saturday in the tailgate lot, Keeneland will have food trucks and a jumbo screen to watch the races. There will be a pari-mutuel line for racing, and "betologists" will be available to give handicapping tips and to show patrons how to make wagers with their smartphones.
Keeneland will also increase the number and frequency of its shuttle service to the tailgate and free parking areas.
Meanwhile, Keeneland will add features on certain days to make staying later more attractive. Live music will be in the Mezzanine Bar on Friday, April 12 and 19. Bluegrass music will be in the tailgate lot on April 20. And the Markey Cancer Concert on the Lawn will be April 26 with a Jimmy Buffett tribute band called Changes in Latitudes.
When possible, you might consider carpooling. If you are a hotel guest, check with the front desk to see if your hotel offers a Keeneland shuttle to and from the track.
You might also want to consider taking the bus or trolley via Lextran, the city's public transportation system. You can park at the downtown transit center, and then Lextran will provide shuttle service to Keeneland each race day. The fare is $1 per each adult passenger, each direction. Discounts may apply for children, seniors and people with disabilities. Riders will also receive a $2 food voucher that's valid at any Keeneland concession stand on Fridays and Saturdays. Check lextran.com/Keeneland for routes and schedule.
On April 13, the day of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, Lextran will offer shuttle service from Commonwealth Stadium to Keeneland. Fans can park at the stadium, take the shuttle to Keeneland, and then return to the stadium on the shuttle in time for the 7 p.m. kickoff of UK's Blue-White Spring Game.
If you must drive to the track, drive carefully and be mindful of construction workers. There is a reduced speed limit of 45 mph in the construction zone, and there are double fines for anyone who exceeds that limit in the zone.
One final word: The reconstruction work isn't scheduled to be finished until December, which means Keeneland visitors will face possible delays during October's fall meet as well.
If you go: Keeneland Spring Meet
Days: Racing is Wednesday through Sunday beginning Friday through April 26. No racing on Mondays or Tuesdays. The first post is 1:05 p.m. and races occur about every 30 minutes.
Hours: Gates open at 11 a.m.
Admission: $5 per person. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.
Twitter: Follow @keenelandracing for news, information, real-time paddock updates and expert picks
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.