More than a goal of free-flowing cars in all directions, some fans who attended LSU’s first three home football games said after Saturday’s SEC opener they would settle for consistency in post-game traffic plans.
They want to know where, when and how to get from one place to another without running into unexpected road blocks and dead ends.
But through three home games thus far this season, confusion among drivers has been common, regardless of whether newly implemented traffic control plans have improved overall traffic flow, according to people who have attended games.
“How can you have an organized exit if the drivers have no idea where they are going?” Tom Wingo, 60, asked. “I simply want LSU to share an accurate map of closed streets and traffic flow routes,” the Madisonville resident said.
Officials posted an updated traffic and parking map online prior to the first game of the season. But since then, some changes have been made, rendering the map at least partially inaccurate.
Wingo, who pays to park in a lot off Highland Road near Coates Hall, said during the three home games he has attended this season, including Saturday’s game with Mississippi State University, police have forced him to take different routes off campus each time.
“If you’re not intimately familiar with the area,” Wingo said, “it’s really rather daunting at night.”
The longtime LSU fan, like many others, recognized that managing postgame traffic is a difficult task. He does not expect a swift exit from the campus after home games.
“I simply want to be able to plan a safe route home ahead of time,” Wingo said.
Adam Smith, director of parking operations for LSU’s athletic department, said Sunday that officials would like to have traffic and parking guidelines remain static for everyone’s convenience. They hope to have a newer, updated map available by midseason — or whenever the new changes are finalized.
“We need the flexibility in this testing phase to change things on gameday,” Smith said, “especially if it can work better and function as our long-term solution.”
Smith recognized that some changes will negatively affect some fans such as those who park on the south side of campus but need to go north to get home.
“The changes are to improve our overall traffic flow,” Smith said, “and what may be good for the whole might not work for everyone.”
The changes did upset some football fans.
“There’s been something different every week,” Eric Eskew, 37, said. “The past three years it’s been so consistent for us.”
Eskew, of Lake Charles, parked near the LSU Indian Mounds for the past three weeks. He left each game at various times but stayed until the end of Saturday’s game with Mississippi State.
This year, the only constant among the exits each weekend has been a steady flow of northbound traffic on Highland Road, Eskew said, which significantly slows traffic exiting campus on Dalrymple Drive from west of Highland Road.
Ronnie Stephens, an MSU graduate who lives in Port Allen and has attended LSU home games for 30 years, said he’s run into other kinds of trouble.
Stephens has been forced to make turns that sent him miles out of the way before he could turn around and head in the right direction, a sentiment echoed by other game attendees. Also, for years, he parked a car on the grassy median on West Parker Boulevard.
This year, a sheriff’s deputy told him he’d be towed if he parked there.
“They are making it more and more difficult and frustrating to go to games,” Stephens said. “My big-screen TV is looking better and better.”
Sgt. David Wallace, the Baton Rouge police incident commander for LSU football, said the changes to this year’s traffic plan have, for the most part, worked like they were supposed to.
The changes, some made as recently as over the weekend, include: a double-lane contraflow on Nicholson Drive southbound between Skip Bertman Drive and Bluebonnet Boulevard; the prohibition of roadside parking along Nicholson Drive and Burbank Drive south of Skip Bertman Drive; the addition of a postgame pedestrian “buffer zone” on Nicholson Drive next to the west side of Tiger Stadium; and forcing cars from Gourrier Avenue — the road between the LSU Golf Course and Alex Box Stadium near a large chunk of the free parking spaces available on gamedays — onto Nicholson Drive as opposed to River Road.
“Everybody had an equal amount of pressure to where it wasn’t overwhelming,” Wallace said.
Wallace noted that Tiger Stadium’s location is far from ideal when it comes to handling mass crowds and the many cars in which they are riding. Still, the new changes seem to be making a noticeable improvement, he said.
“As long as we can keep them moving,” Wallace said, “it’s a success.”
Many game attendees recognized the challenges of trying to manage traffic after football games at Tiger Stadium, and they thanked law enforcement personnel for doing the job.
However, at least one Baton Rouge resident said he believes law enforcement needs to take a step back and let traffic lights do the job they are supposed to do.
Bob Harrison, a former New York State Police officer who has lived in Baton Rouge for more than 20 years, said he purposely stays home when LSU plays at Tiger Stadium in order to avoid the generally congested roadways.
Following the game against the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Harrison, 72, begrudgingly left his house off Highland Road to pick up his son, who was stranded several miles away with a dead cellphone. The adventure led Harrison to multiple road blocks and turnarounds, until he finally ran into his son by chance near the intersection of Highland Road and West Lee Drive.
His commentary on the experience was identical to his commentary on gameday traffic as a whole: It “hurt.”
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace.