U.S. Open’s traffic plan a success on Day 1

Monday was a practice day for U.S. Open golfers, and it also provided an introductory round for the hundreds of parking lot attendants, bus drivers and traffic control officers implementing the USGA’s parking and transportation plan for the tournament.

The consensus? The plan is working.

“We are very pleased that the transportation plan has worked exactly as intended,” said Janeen Driscoll, a United States Golf Association spokeswoman. “We’ve found that there is more than ample parking and, by and large, people have been able to enjoy riding back and forth on the shuttle buses.”

Monday’s crowds, while large, weren’t up to levels expected later in the week. Attendance at the Chambers Bay golf course is expected to increase through the week, with at least 30,000 people per day beginning Thursday.

The USGA arranged for 21,000 parking spaces at satellite lots at the Puyallup fairgrounds and Fort Steilacoom Park and hired a fleet of 290 buses to shuttle people back and forth.

According to local law enforcement and transportation agencies, the process caused no major delays along their routes, including Interstate 5.

“We’ve got people flowing smoothly back and forth to Fort Steilacoom as well as Puyallup,” said Sheri Badger, a Pierce County emergency management supervisor serving as traffic spokeswoman during the tournament.

“We’re expecting quite a few more people on Thursday and Friday and on the weekend,” Badger said, “but so far there have been no problems.”

A minor glitch at the parking lot in Puyallup caused some confusion early in the day, Badger said. The USGA designated the Puyallup lot as the “Red Lot” and Fort Steilacoom as the “Blue Lot.”

Badger said the “red” designation in Puyallup led some attendees to assume that shuttle pickup and security screening would take place at the fairground’s Red Gate. Access to the shuttle and security checkpoint actually is through the fair’s Blue Gate.

“It was a little confusing for folks at first,” Badger said, “but we put some additional signage out there and that should smooth things out. When people go to the Red Lot, they’re to go to the Blue Gate.”

Ken Reimers drove to the Puyallup fairground lot from his home in Marysville and took a bus from there. He said the trip was trouble-free.

“They did a great job of getting people in and out,” Reimers said. “There were no lines and no waiting.”

Reimers was already on his way back to his car shortly before noon.

“I was there for three hours,” he said. “I watched Tiger Woods for four or five holes, so I’m happy. I just want to beat the traffic on the way back north.”

Nick Boyle, a longtime University Place resident, said traffic seemed close to normal in the city, with the exception of Bridgeport Way.

“Bridgeport, which is our main street through town, is pretty backed up,” Boyle said, “but everywhere else, traffic is moderate.

“It seems like a normal day when you get closer to the course,” he said. “Grandview (Avenue) is completely clear. The only thing that’s different is you’ve got a lot of state patrolmen.”

Grandview was restricted to official U.S. Open traffic Monday.

George Gallo, manager of the drop-off and pick-up zone at Sunset Primary School, said that things went smoothly, with a steady flow of private vehicles, vans and Uber cars and no backups, even in the early hours when most people arrived.

“Now on Sunday, that might be different,” he said.

The Sunset drop-off site at 4523 97th Ave. W. is available only for vehicles carrying 12 or fewer passengers.

Sunset also is a designated spot for cyclists to leave their bicycles, and the number of bikes far surpassed the space in the available rack. The rack holds about 30 bikes. On Monday, another 50 or so were chained to fences and light standards.

“That’s the one thing,” Gallo said. “I don’t think the USGA realized how many bikes there would be. We might have to request another rack.”

Some have expressed concern that one of Puyallup’s main thoroughfares, South Meridian, will be closed for the Meeker Days Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which coincides with the final days of the golf tournament.

Badger said the USGA has long been aware of the festival and planned its routes and publicity accordingly.

“They’ve been really focusing on sending people off of (state Route) 512 on Pioneer instead of Meridian,” she said. “We don’t expect that to be a problem.”

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