Despite backups, traffic flowing, USGA says

Fans heading for the U.S. Open on Thursday encountered some frustrating backups near shuttle parking lots in Lakewood and Puyallup, but the USGA said that, overall, the massive people-moving plan was working well.

“As you would surmise, where you have a sporting event with 30,000 spectators, there will be traffic,” said Janeen Driscoll, director of public relations for the United States Golf Association.

“Overall, the plan is running very smoothly,” Driscoll said. “We’re feeling really good about it. Overall, we are thrilled.”

The most clogged area has been along Steilacoom Boulevard Southwest in Lakewood.

Drivers from Interstate 5 heading toward the “Blue” shuttle parking lot at Fort Steilacoom Park waited in a slow-moving line that stretched for nearly 2 miles on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

Additional law enforcement officers have been assigned to direct traffic in Lakewood during the morning rush, said Sheri Badger, a Pierce County Department of Emergency Management supervisor serving as public information officer for traffic operations during the tournament.

Additional officers also have been assigned to speed traffic in Puyallup, Badger said. Those officers will be on duty Friday morning during the early rush, she said.

“We’ve had more people attending than we expected,” Badger said, “so we’re having to adjust a little bit.”

Thousands of volunteers, media and vendors came to Chambers Bay during practice rounds this week, and attendance Thursday and Friday was expected to be higher.

“The challenge is, everybody wants to come at the same time,” Badger said. “They (the USGA) are doing everything it can to make this as smooth as possible.”

Backups clogged major routes to Puyallup between 7 and 8 a.m. Thursday as people headed toward the shuttle bus parking lot set up by the USGA at the Washington State Fairgrounds, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Adamson.

“We did see some heavy traffic on southbound (state Route) 167 and a short section of (state Route) 512 leading to the fairgrounds,” Adamson said. “But it was not extensive and was pretty much in the nature of what we expected — the drivers get there early and then get on the shuttle.”

Adamson said traffic on I-5 was barely affected. Before the tournament, the Transportation Department had warned of possible slowdowns at Bridgeport Way exits, where golf fans are directed toward the other major shuttle parking lot at Fort Steilacoom Park.

“We’ve seen minimal impacts, if any, on I-5,” Adamson said.

Traffic on eastbound state Route 16, heading toward the intersection with I-5, was badly backed up Wednesday afternoon, with traffic stopped on Sprague Avenue and South 19th Street. Adamson said the backup was caused by construction on I-5, not the golf tournament.

The contractor working on adding a high-occupancy vehicle lane on I-5 through downtown Tacoma has cut back on roadwork during the tournament, Adamson said, but a temporary merge of eastbound state Route 16 traffic with vehicles entering at Sprague continues to cause slowdowns.

Adamson offered this advice to U.S. Open spectators: “Plan ahead; check online for our travel tools. Give yourself a bit of extra time so you don’t miss any of the action.”

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