Evansville's fireworks display began this evening at 9:01. It concluded at 9:30. Traffic seemed to return to reasonable, non-congested, levels on all downtown streets around 10:30.

In the intervening 59 minutes, I was able to make it to six problem areas, including both ends of the official detour. I have several observations to make, in brief:

  • Drivers are unfamiliar with downtown.
  • Drivers did not plan ahead when selecting parking.
  • Traffic cops and drivers don't speak the same language.

Consider: At minute 33, there were cars lined up for blocks along 2nd Street at Main in both directions. This despite at least eight officers directing traffic at various intersections on 2nd. A large part of the problem appeared to be drivers who were trying to go west on a 1-way, turn, and go east on the next street. The police were not allowing turns at many already-congested intersections, causing some frustration on both sides. Exacerbating the situation were drivers who stopped their cars in the middle of the street either to ask the officer what his signals meant or to argue.

The other two observations I had went hand in hand. Drivers either did not plan their escapes, or did not know what choices to make to do so. Consider how far able-bodied people can walk in 30 minutes. (1 mile seems OK here) It is less than a mile from any point on the river to the new arena, which has access to a number of streets to get out of downtown.

What were the major problem spots I saw? Basically all of 2nd St., Division St. between Mary and Fulton, and First Ave. at John St. were all congested for a long time. Shorter-term bottlenecks took place on all the "tree" streets -- Chestnut, Sycamore, Cherry, and the like as folks tried to align themselves in a direction to get out of town.

WEHT promoted a story on their late news to this idea. I didn't watch their late news because I was doing the reporting for this blog. WEHT's angle was supposedly that this was a test for how events would unfold at the new arena when it opens in a few months. I'm not sure I agree with this premise because the two classes of events are in different locations with different infrastructure in place. However, it does seem to me that, at least until the visitors to downtown become more familiar with the layout of the streets, arena events will take a long time to disperse.