Not as monstrous: DelDOT, city prepared for NASCAR weekend

 

A Welcome Race Fans banner along U.S. 13 in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The Delaware Department of Transportation hopes the most serious traffic problems around the city this weekend will be relegated to the high banks of Dover International Speedway.

The stars of NASCAR will be engaged in fender-rubbing tussles on Dover’s one-mile concrete oval from Friday morning until the checkered flag waves on the Apache Warrior 400 Monster Energy Series race on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, with a crowd of around 65,000 expected to attend Sunday’s main event, any traffic snarls this weekend likely will be limited to north Dover and the area in front of the race track.

DelDOT’s Transportation Management Center staff will be working in coordination with the city of Dover Police and Delaware State Police and will monitor traffic in and around the Dover vicinity to ensure safe travel for motorists.

Other than around the racetrack, it should be business as usual in the state capital.

One thing is for certain, said Kent County Tourism Executive Director Wendie Vestfall, the traffic nightmares will not be nearly what they were some 15 years ago when 140,000 race fans made the pilgrimage to the speedway.

“Locals still have the impression from the 1990s and 2000s that getting around town on a race weekend is challenging,” Ms. Vestfall said. “Most people you ask nowadays will tell you that it’s not that difficult to navigate on race weekend, particularly on Friday and Saturday.

“Gone are the days of hours-long (U.S.) 13 traffic jams, before (Del.) 1 was completed. Residents need not fear race weekend, but should embrace it.”

While the crowds nowadays may be less than half of what they were in 2000, NASCAR still punches a nice economic impact for the city of Dover.

“NASCAR’s two annual visits to Dover are a great economic boon for the capital city and central Delaware as a whole,” Ms. Vestfall said. “Area hotels and motels have been sold out for weeks and gas stations, markets and other businesses all see an increase in foot traffic due to the events at Dover International Speedway.

“Thanks to these visitors each Delaware household pays $1,417 less in taxes per year. The tourism industry (which the races are considered part of) generated $486 million in state and local government taxes/fees in Fiscal Year 2015. The average visitor spent $566 per trip in 2015.”

Joan Cote, executive director of the Downtown Dover Partnership, noted it’s a common theme among many local residents that they remain home and not patronize businesses and restaurants on race weekend – fearing the crush of out-of-towners.

Ms. Cote added that most race fans – like the people who attend the Firefly Music Festival – tend to stay camped out at the track enjoying the camaraderie of their fellow fans, actually leaving many businesses slower than usual on NASCAR weekends.

“One thing I might propose to get the local people to come out on race weekends would be to have a ‘locals’ card, where they could get discounts at participating restaurants and enjoy front-of-the-line treatment,” Ms. Cote said. “Each business or restaurant could offer whatever discount they wanted to locals, but it might entice them to get out.”

Dover resident Brian Carbaugh said he notices a decrease in area business on race weekends.

“I find many restaurants actually aren’t busy because of the local people staying away,” he said.

Ms. Vestfall said it depends on where a business is located in regards to its success, or lack of it, on a race weekend.

“Many RV or camping customers tend to stay within walking distance, plus there is an Acme store right in the campgrounds for their needs,” she said. “The centers in front of the track such as Acme, Applebees, Panda Express and Chipotle, tend to have good foot traffic all weekend long.”

When it comes to the local community, some people insist they will stay inside on race weekend while the other half has adjusted with the scaled-down version of NASCAR weekends.

“Similar to attendance, the traffic impact is not what it once was,” NASCAR fan Gerry Wright said. “In the last several years the restaurants and pubs which once bustled with activity no longer seem to have what was once a huge revenue boost to the area.”

Hartly’s Omarr Bashir said, “I don’t think the crowds are as big as they used to be, so I now feel like I can go out and shop without the traffic. Restaurants are different. They are still packed.”

Ellis Rath, a resident of Milford, said he wouldn’t even think about going near the racetrack when NASCAR is in town except when the race itself is taking place.

“I still stay out of Dover on race weekend,” he said. “If for some reason I have to go it would be only during the actual race and I’d be gone long before it’s over.”

Dover’s Megan Lloyd said she sees the shrinking size of the NASCAR crowds and doesn’t expect it to ever return to the days of when race fans had to wait more than two hours after the race to get out of the parking lot.

“NASCAR is just not the same as in previous years,” Mrs. Lloyd said. “Before you could not get into restaurants, or drive anywhere in Dover.

“Now that all the fans’ favorites are retiring, I do not see the race gaining more fans.”

It all combines to make a far less congested NASCAR weekend at Dover.

 

NASCAR weekend traffic information

On Sunday, Dover International Speedway’s main entrance on U.S. 13 will be closed for all southbound traffic when parking at the racetrack is filled. When the race is concluded on Sunday afternoon, Leipsic Road will also be closed to through traffic.

A designated exit route for the Saturday and Sunday races has been established through the cooperation of many groups including the Towne Point Civic Association. Vehicles parked in Lot 1 will be permitted to exit to Buckson Drive onto Townsend Boulevard and the signalized intersection. Once at the traffic signal, motorists will be able to turn southbound only.

Due to special routes being designed just for Saturday and Sunday races, motorists are encouraged to tune to WTMC 1380 AM and to read the variable message board signs surrounding the Dover area.

The Traffic Management Center and DelDOT’s Traffic Section will work from the Command Post at the speedway with technicians monitoring traffic inside and outside the track facilities. DelDOT’s staff will observe major intersections for proper signal progression, place temporary directional signage and assist with any incident or congestion problems.

Parking information

Real-time race traffic and parking information will be available on DelDOT’s Smartphone application. The DelDOT App is available for Apple and Android smart phones and tablets and can be downloaded free, search for “DelDOT” at the Apple and Google Play stores. With the DelDOT App you can view real-time traffic cameras, travel times, delays, advisories, listen to WTMC 1380 AM travel advisory radio, and much more. The real-time travel information is also available on the web at www.DelDOT.gov

On Sunday, parking availability for the Race Express Bus shuttle service located at the Blue Hen Corporate Center will be available real-time.

Park and Ride bus service

DelDOT and Dover International Speedway are offering race fans a better way to enjoy their stay. Fans looking for a smart way to get to and from the track, consider using the Race Express Bus service. This bus service is only available on Sunday. In the event of inclement weather and the race is postponed there will be no bus service on Monday.

On race day, payment will only be accepted by exact cash amount, no change will be available.

Fans can choose to ride from two locations:

•(1) The Race Express from Christiana Mall Park & Ride in northern Delaware, just off I-95 takes NASCAR fans directly to Dover International Speedway. The bus service will begin at 8 a.m. with 800 seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost per person is $12 round-trip.

•(2) For $20 per vehicle, NASCAR fans can also park at the Blue Hen Corporate Center located at 655 South Bay Road in Dover. All vehicle occupants can ride the Race Express Bus to and from the Dover International Speedway. The Race Express Bus avoids race day traffic congestion by traveling north on Del. 1 to an exclusive bus-only exit ramp leading directly to Dover International Speedway, approximately 12 minutes. The service begins at 8 a.m. and is available to transport passengers back and forth until one hour after the race.

Carry-on items on the buses to the grandstands must conform to Dover International Speedway’s Gate Admission Policy, and any and all carry-on items that can be handled by one person are permitted on the buses upon departure after the race.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment