TIEC reveals updated traffic plan for WEG

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 22, 2018

Officials establish emergency routes for September event

COLUMBUS — Parking and transportation plans for September’s World Equestrian Games have changed, with the Polk County Board of Commissioners hearing an update this week.

Tryon International Equestrian Center Emergency Planner Mike Cook said after engineers looked at the plan, they feel comfortable 5,000 cars can be parked at the steeplechase track, with alternate routes included. On the largest days, there could be a maximum of 500 bus trips, he said. 

Mike Cook

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Cook said parking for staff and volunteers will be on the back of property at the White Oak House and a section of property currently under improvement. Staff and volunteers will use Coxe, Sandy Plains and John Shehan/Moore roads to access the parking areas.

After arrival, the workers will be shuttled to the security clearance to enter TIEC, Cook said. Athletes, support teams, media and VIPs will have designated parking locations on site.

Cook said the steeplechase track off Highway 9 South will hold an estimated 5,000 vehicles. All spectator traffic will enter and exit from Highway 9.

“The first screen will occur at steeplechase for use of clear bags and return of items not allowed into the World Equestrian Games,” Cook said.

Buses holding up to 55 passengers will transport people to and from TIEC, with an estimated 500 trips on the largest ticketed day, Cook said.

Cook also said bus travel will be limited to speeds of 30-40 mph. An overflow site is still under review.

The traffic plan includes that all spectator traffic will use Highway 9 to the main steeplechase track entrance, and there will be a limited access and functional needs accessibility drop off in the gravel area north of U.S. 74 at TIEC. The gravel area will also be accessible for taxis, Uber and other individuals who need to be dropped off.

Buses will travel on Pine Meadows, Floyd Blackwell to Sandy Plains, Sandy Plains to Pea Ridge and Pea Ridge to TIEC.

Alternate routes in case of an emergency include Floyd Blackwell to Coxe Road, Coxe Road to Pea Ridge and Pea Ridge to TIEC, Cook said. A second alternate route in the event of emergency is Floyd Blackwell to Sandy Plains, Sandy Plains to Highway 9, Highway 9 to John Shehan and John Shehan to TIEC.

“It’s inevitable that changes are going to occur,” Cook said.

He said the new plan will be less intrusive to U.S. 74 and Highway 9.

“Anytime we have a major update, we like to bring [the county] in the loop,” Cook said.

Cook also said the North Carolina Highway Patrol will be on scene to direct traffic and keep vehicles moved off Highway 9 during the event.

Commissioner Tommy Melton asked what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Polk County’s motorists.

Cook said the buses will dictate speeds, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will be heavily involved with signage as well as the state highway patrol. Cook said if people do not want a speeding ticket in those two weeks, do not speed in the area, because the highway patrol will be everywhere.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked about the steeplechase track in case it rains, saying it will be the biggest mudhole in the county.

“We are maintaining it throughout the summer so it will stay dry,” Cook said.

County Manager Marche Pittman said the county had a van overturn last week with nine people on it, which taxed the county’s emergency system.

“You can’t transport nine people to the hospital when you only have three [ambulances],” Pittman said. “So, I’ve got some concern with it personally.”

Cook said there will be instructional videos on the buses so people know where to go.

Pittman also said he want to make sure there is plenty of notice for local citizens, such as where roads will be closed. He said the biggest complaint during the recent endurance trials was that people did not know the road was going to be closed.

WEG will be held at TIEC in Mill Spring from Sept. 11-23.