The new Berckmans Road will be the biggest traffic change Masters Tournament patrons will experience this year.
The new road, which is directly across from Alexander Drive on Washington Road, has been open to Augusta motorists since the end of February. It has a center turn lane, sidewalks, extra lighting and tunnels – two for pedestrians and one for vehicles. Old Berckmans Road has since been closed to traffic and is used only as a service road and for access to Jay’s Music.
“If they follow the signs and the police officers, then there won’t be any trouble,” said Steve Cassell, a longtime Augusta traffic engineer who has moved on to neighboring Columbia County but will be back working the Masters Tournament.
Cassell said he expects most traffic problems will come during the tournament rounds Thursday through Sunday because longtime patrons have grown accustomed to the same route.
Vehicles that have access to Old Berckmans Road have been assigned stickers easily identifiable to officials.
The new Berckmans Road also means a different pedestrian route for patrons. The eastern sidewalk will be closed to all pedestrians, who will be funneled toward a new pedestrian tunnel.
Augusta National Golf Club loaned the city money to get the $17 million road project completed ahead of Transportation Investment Act sales tax collections intended to fund it and is responsible for the manicured rights of way.
Designers have received nothing but praise for the new road, Cassell said. One of those is Al Wildes, whose family has lived near the road for years and said he drives up the new Berckmans almost every day.
“It’s become an almost daily routine,” Wildes said. “It flows perfect to me.”
Other than that change, the Masters traffic plan is much the same as it has been for years.
As customary, the eastbound ramp from Interstate 20 to Washington Road will be closed to traffic from 7:30 to 9:30 or 10 a.m.
Berckmans Road will go one-way headed south from 4 to 9 p.m. to speed up and simplify patrons’ exit from the course. Also during that time period, there will be no left turn from Berckmans onto Washington Road.
Message signs are in place on the interstate and other major routes to remind drivers of changes or closures. Traffic updates will be posted on ARC Traffic Facebook and Twitter accounts. Georgia Department of Transportation HERO trucks will be in the area to assist with crashes and stalled vehicles, and the trucks’ message boards will alert drivers to traffic changes.
Traffic engineers are asking drivers to not use GPS to get to the course. Signs have been placed throughout the county telling drivers which routes to take, which are likely not the ones a GPS would suggest.
Staff writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.