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Traffic problems during Luke Bryan concert lead to calls for more city oversight of events

Outbound traffic on Tates Creek Road was bumper to bumper for almost 9 miles on Tuesday as fans of Luke Bryan tried to get to his concert at Talon Winery & Vineyards. It took hours for many concertgoers to get there; some turned around and went home.
Outbound traffic on Tates Creek Road was bumper to bumper for almost 9 miles on Tuesday as fans of Luke Bryan tried to get to his concert at Talon Winery & Vineyards. It took hours for many concertgoers to get there; some turned around and went home. Herald-Leader

A string of headlights stretched for almost 9 miles down Tates Creek Road on Tuesday night as bumper-to-bumper vehicles slowly made their way to the Luke Bryan concert at Talon Winery & Vineyards.

Many concertgoers waited hours to get to the event, which was part of the Luke Bryan Farm Tour, but others turned around and went home.

Local officials said Wednesday that the headaches and hiccups could lead to changes in the way the city regulates or handles large gatherings as preparations are finalized for two high-profile events. Talon Winery didn't need city approval for about 20,000 fans the concert funneled to a rural two-lane road, causing the traffic jam.

Meanwhile, Talon Winery said Bryan's tour promoter was responsible for the planning. Representatives from Bryan's camp could not be reached for comment.

Urban County Councilman Russ Hensley, whose district includes Talon Winery, said Wednesday that he would ask the council for a committee review.

Hensley, a pilot, was riding in the Lexington police helicopter Tuesday night and saw traffic stack up for miles on Tates Creek Road. The bottleneck happened at the winery entrance.

"They could not get enough people through that entrance fast enough," he said.

Lexington will see two more high-traffic events in the coming weeks, with the city's first Thursday night University of Kentucky football game next week and The Breeders' Cup on Oct. 30 and 31.

Currently, public safety officials are not required to review or approve large permitted events, said Derek Paulsen, commissioner of planning. He wants to work with the public safety commissioner and city council to change that.

"We don't want to make it so we can't have events," Paulsen said. "We just want to have more oversight for safety."

Also, wineries have no limitations on how many people may attend occasional concerts or events, he said.

"This has really highlighted a deficiency," Paulsen said.

Problems at the Breeders' Cup are unlikely because Keeneland has planned for the additional traffic, he said.

"They've done a very good job and taken it on themselves to talk about how not to create this traffic nightmare," Paulsen said.

Businesses should be able to hold events on private property, but there needs to be a balance between business interests and public safety, Hensley said.

"The consensus is this is a public safety issue because of the number of people," he said. "Driveways and safety routes were blocked."

A pedestrian was hit by a vehicle on Tates Creek Road as fans left the Bryan concert, police Cmdr. Gregg Jones said.

The pedestrian apparently was walking away from the concert and was taken to a hospital. His injuries weren't thought to be life-threatening, Jones said.

After the concert, police directed departing traffic until the last people left the winery about 4:10 a.m., Jones said.

Traffic into the concert began early, Jones said, with a steady, constant flow from about 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. Bryan didn't take the stage until nearly 10 p.m., an hour after he was scheduled to start, because of the traffic delays.

Before and after the concert, some people criticized Talon for the traffic problems, while others reported that they survived the farm tour and enjoyed the event despite the problems.

Nikki Richardson of Louisville sent her daughter Jaylyn with family friends for the girl's birthday. They got to the venue at 2 p.m., and the gates opened at 5.

Because of Bryan's delayed performance, Jaylyn made it through five of his songs before she asked to go home because she was tired, Richardson said.

"I understand that they were trying to accommodate people who were stuck in traffic," Richardson said. "But what about all of the people that waited in that long line, that got there early like the website said they should?"

The winery sold only beer and other alcohol, while traffic, parking and every other aspect of the event was handled by the group putting on the tour concerts, said Harriet Allen, owner of the winery.

"It was a wonderful concert and it is a shame ... that that was overshadowed by a traffic issue," Allen said. "The crowd was fantastic and orderly, and Luke Bryan put on a fantastic performance."

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