COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Recipe for a traffic jam:
Mix 45,000 football fans with 33,000 students and faculty members.
Gradually blend in at least 108,000 motorists, marinated in eight hours of work.
No one at the University of Maryland at College Park wants to do that kind of cooking, but the dish is on the menu for the Nov. 14 match-up between the Maryland Terrapins and the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets.
The game, which will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m., is expected to pack Byrd Stadium and possibly cause major traffic delays on state Highway 193 and on other arteries into the campus, beginning about 4 p.m.
University officials are worried because the game falls not on the usual Saturday, but on a Thursday when 33,000 students and faculty members are on campus.
Aside from the campus commuters, nearly 108,950 motorists use 193 daily between Adelphi Road and Rhode Island Avenue, according to the State Highway Administration. The game’s impact could also be felt on U.S. Route 1 and the Capital Beltway.
The university has been working since September on a plan to alleviate traffic congestion.
“President [William E.] Kirwan has decided not to cancel classes for this event because the academic mission of this university must come first,” said Roland King, campus spokesman. “However, we know this will affect traffic. There will be limited parking availability and added congestion, especially in the late afternoon throughout the evening.
“We haven’t had to deal with this on a weekday so we are hoping that we can eliminate some of the frustration for campus commuters and motorists by getting the word out.”
The university has mailed hundreds of letters to parking permit holders warning them about the game day restrictions. Signs have been posted around campus to alert commuters. And an announcement will run in The Diamondback, the largest student newspaper.
In addition, certain faculty members will be allowed to leave at 2:30 p.m. without penalty in an effort to get as many people off campus before 4 p.m.
The university has also decided not to charge game goers the $5 parking fee.
“We are hoping this alone will keep traffic moving,” said David Allen, director of campus parking. “We will probably lose about $60,000 because we are not charging. But we are not a corporation. Our bottom line was solving the problem of traffic congestion. And we believe this will help do that.”
Allen added that he will increase his work force for the occasion.
“We normally have 30 people working a game. For this game, we will have 80 people directing traffic, opening and closing parking lots starting at 7 a.m. Thursday until the game is over,” he said.
Campus police are also getting ready for the anticipated crowd.
“Basically, everyone in our department will be working,” said Cpl. Mary Brock, spokeswoman. “We have 68 officers, but only 58 will be working because the other 10 have to come on at midnight. And we don’t want them to be too tired to complete their shift.”
Brock said motorists should use the Route 1 campus entrance as well as the one on 193. She also advises game goers to remember that all lettered parking lots are open for parking after 4 p.m., not just the lots that surround the stadium.
“They may have to walk a little further to the stadium,” she said. “But at least they won’t be in the center of the parking congestion before and after the game.”
This year, Terrapin games generally attract crowds of about 31,000 to Byrd Stadium, which seats 48,500. And even though the prediction for the Maryland/Georgia Tech game is 45,000, Jamie Pollard, associate athletic director, said ticket sales show no indication of a sellout.
“All the expectations at the beginning of the year pointed to the 45,000 turnout because last year we had a better record and game attendance was around 42,000,” Pollard said. “But I don’t think we will get close to a sellout based on the ticket sales so far.”
This Thursday game is required by the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last year, the Thursday night game between Maryland and Georgia Tech was held in Atlanta.
“Part of the ACC package is that we play in a Thursday game. This year happened to be our turn to host it,” Pollard said. “But we are optimistic and believe the university is as prepared as we can get for this event.”
Fans or motorists interested in more information may call the campus parking office at (301) 314-7275. -30-