Smooth drives expected for locals during Masters

Traffic backed up on Washington Road last year in the rush to get to the Masters' Par-3 Contest.

With no road construction and few changes to the Masters Tournament traffic patterns, officials expect this year's tournament to be a smooth drive for locals.

Traffic officials expect only minor changes to the traffic plan they had been working to perfect since 2008 -- when Augusta National opened its new 6,000-spot parking lot across from Berckmans Road.

"Really, nothing major has changed from the standpoint of your average patron," said Steve Cassell, Richmond County's traffic engineer.

For locals, avoiding the tournament -- and all the traffic it brings -- should be pretty simple. Based on traffic timing conducted by officials last year, River Watch Parkway typically has the quickest times to the tournament and to downtown. Cassell said if you have to head that way during the peak of Masters morning traffic, River Watch Parkway is a best bet.

"Everybody I sent that way said they didn't even stop," said Cassell, referring to his time cars.

The big morning rush is usually between about 7 and 11 a.m. while the evening rush generally lasts from 5 to 9:30 p.m. The evening rush can vary depending on the day.

"During the tournament, to be honest, it's more dictated by when Tiger leaves," Cassell said.

He said it's best not to be near one of the main routes at that time. Partly, that's because out-of-towners will line up to use Washington Road and Interstate 20 and ignore the other routes.

As usual, any local road construction that could hamper traffic will be shut down for the week. This year, that means all construction on the downtown St. Sebastian Way connector will cease.

The monthlong closure of Broad Street near the bus facility will also end, officials said.

Because all of the major construction on I-20 is finished, there is now an extra lane both to exit and enter Washington Road from the interstate. This will put to an end the closure of a lane on westbound I-20 that had to be implemented last year to merge traffic onto the interstate.

"There will be no closures on I-20; however, there may be periods where we have to close the Washington Road ramp," Cassell said.

One concern is that with the new merging lane on I-20, people will rush to get their space in what could be a long queue of cars and miss out on a quicker route.

"Eastbound traffic should be aware that they can use River Watch Parkway and Martintown Road to bypass that whole long line," Cassell said.

Drivers should follow the detour signs laid out along the routes, and if the line looks too long in one, try another.

Local drivers should also note that Alexander Drive will be open to local residents and businesses only. Patrons will not be able to use the road to get to the new parking areas.

Berckmans Road will be open to through traffic but not to enter the parking lots. If you don't have to be there, avoid Berckmans Road because there will be heavy pedestrian traffic there during the week, Cassell said.

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