BANGOR, Maine — Bangor rolled out its plan for freeing up traffic around the Cross Insurance Center at the start of what will be a busy summer in Bangor.
Cross Center patrons and drivers who frequent Main Street raised concerns about long lines of slow-moving traffic in the wake of the first major events at the arena and convention center. Residents in the surrounding neighborhood were worried about the increase in traffic around their homes.
Dana Wardwell, director of public works, said part of the problem is that everyone wants to show up for events at the same time. The first part of his plan involves changing people’s expectations.
“It is unreasonable to have 1,500 vehicles want to arrive for an event at the same time and want to exit the event at the same time and expect no traffic delays,” Wardwell said in a memo to city councilors. The city needs to do a better job communicating to Cross Center attendees that they should show up earlier, enjoy the facility, and expect to wait in line for 30 minutes before being able to leave the parking lot, he said.
Doors generally open an hour or more ahead of time for large events, according to Joe Imbriaco, general manager of the Cross Center.
“It’s always our goal to get people to come early to improve their experience,” Imbriaco said.
The city also wants to better advertise that the Hollywood Casino parking garage is open to Cross Insurance Center patrons during events. Wardwell said the city should minimize use of cones and barricades, leaving all entrances open if possible to improve traffic flow.
There also will be a designated “drop-off” point in the triangle near the northwest entrance to the venue.
In the long term, the Cross Center would like to find more room for parking, Imbriaco said.
Another key to improving flow will be the $84,000 the city hopes to use to purchase new signs to guide drivers to their destinations in the most efficient way possible, Wardwell said.
That will include “red X” and “green arrow” signs above all lanes in the areas where traffic lanes reverse depending on whether an event is starting or finishing, as well as six overhead electronic signboards to tell drivers which lanes they should be in to get where. That money has been included in the fiscal year 2015 budget. Signs also will be set up in parking areas to better indicate where people should park and where they should leave.
The new system will be tested this summer. Perhaps its biggest challenge will come June 18-22, when Cirque du Soleil comes to town for eight performances at the Cross Insurance Center. On June 19, Willie Nelson performs on the waterfront as part of the Waterfront Concerts series just an hour and a half before the start of one of the Cirque du Soleil shows.
There will be traffic and people will have to wait, but the city hopes to make it as painless as possible, Wardwell said.