Residents see Masters Week traffic plan

Most years, Doug and Dorene Holland stick around their Margate Drive home the week of the Masters Tournament. But this year, as officials unveiled a plan Wednesday to turn Berckmans Road into a two-lane, one-way road for several hours each day during the tournament, the Hollands might go on vacation.

 

"You have no say, and you just go with the flow," Dorene Holland said after leaving a public meeting at National Hills Elementary about the changes. "People who've lived there a long time don't try to come in the morning, and you don't try to get out in the evening."

From April 4-11, officials plan to make Berckmans Road one way from 4 to 9 p.m. each day. Traffic officials say that will make it easier and quicker for patrons to exit than in years past.

"We're hoping to get three- to four-hundred more an hour," said Cassell, who estimated more than 10,000 cars pack into the parking lots across from Augusta National Golf Club each day during the tournament.

Under the new plan, patrons driving southbound on Berckmans Road will be shifted into the normally northbound lane just south of Cherry Lane. They will be required to stay in that lane through the intersection at Ingleside Drive and on to Wheeler Road or Walton Way.

Meanwhile, traffic exiting the parking lots at Heath Drive must turn right onto Berckmans Road and continue southbound to the intersection with Ingleside Drive. Deputies will force them to turn right onto Ingleside toward Boy Scout Road.

"When they get to Ingleside Drive, one lane is going to have to turn right and another lane will have to go straight," Cassell said.

With better direction inside the parking lots and a quicker departure for patrons, officials say they might be able to avoid the kind of problems that occurred Saturday of Masters Week in 2010. Lengthy backups on Berckmans Road, coupled with confusion and chaotic driving in the main parking lot, made for long wait times for patrons trying to leave. Drivers formed haphazard lines to exit the lots and some drove over curbs in an attempt to get out.

"There are going to be more people in the lots directing traffic," Cassell said. "Each lot section will have its own exit point independent of the others."

The addition of more than 1,000 parking spaces this year comes as Augusta National plans to close the last on-course parking lot open to the general public -- Lot 2, located off Berckmans Road across from Heath Drive and accessed by Gate 10.

Traffic officials also plan to make use of the new St. Sebastian Way ramps to River Watch Parkway through downtown Augusta and portions of Alexander Drive to speed patrons away from the course. A full Masters traffic plan is expected to be released later this month.

Meanwhile, Doug Holland said even though he was skeptical of the changes and dreading a longer commute, he appreciated traffic officials and sheriff's deputies for taking the time to meet with neighborhood residents before the tournament begins.

"I'm glad they did this," he said.