Fayette County

Gridlocked morning rush hour leads to new traffic plan at seminar's end

Traffic on was heavy in the downtown area including East and West High Streets near Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.,Wednesday, September 28, 2011.
Traffic on was heavy in the downtown area including East and West High Streets near Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.,Wednesday, September 28, 2011.

A packed house in Rupp Arena for a daylong Get Motivated seminar clogged downtown streets for hours Wednesday morning, leading police and the city's traffic control division to create an afternoon plan to exit traffic out of downtown.

The gridlocked traffic was caused by thousands of people, many from out of town, driving to and from the conference in Rupp Arena during rush hour at the same time streets were packed with daily commuters, police said.

To prevent the gridlock that took place Wednesday morning, officers made everyone exiting the Rupp Arena parking lot at Broadway and Maxwell streets on Wednesday afternoon use Versailles Road to leave downtown. Those in the Cox Street lot had to leave using Newtown Pike.

The lights on outbound Versailles and on Newtown Pike stayed green for several blocks out of downtown to keep traffic moving.

"We're treating it like a basketball game. It's going well," Lt. Chris Schnelle said Wednesday afternoon.

Schnelle said there were no more car accidents than during a usual evening rush hour.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Bosse, who leads the police patrol division, said nine officers were out Wednesday morning in the Rupp area. That number increased to about 20 to help direct traffic during the evening.

The main Rupp lot was full by 7 a.m., an hour before the seminar started, so people started parking in spots downtown that workers usually use, causing more of a bottleneck, Bosse said.

Long lines of cars sat bumper to bumper well past the start of the seminar, which featured presentations by big-name speakers including University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari, Steve Forbes, Laura Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Belluzo, Lou Holtz and Gen. Colin Powell.

At one point, police blocked through traffic on High Street in front of Rupp Arena and sent attendees to the Whitaker Bank Ballpark on North Broadway to take shuttles to Rupp Arena.

The Get Motivated seminar ran until about 4:30 p.m., about when afternoon traffic in Lexington usually starts picking up. Police helped direct traffic for about an hour before traffic thinned out.

Police blocked access to Jefferson Street, south of Main Street, and High Street was blocked westbound from Broadway.

Lexington Center Corp. President Bill Owen said that since many of the people were coming from around the region, they "didn't know the cut-throughs or secret parking places."

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