Police departments prepare for Firefly traffic

CHESWOLD — Trust GPS directions and you might travel the countryside surrounding Cheswold.

The Firefly Music Festival is nearly here — gates open today for early arrivals — and auto-navigating visitors from the west may be directed to just a few miles north of the Woodlands site.

On the way to the U.S. 13 southbound main travel artery, vehicles could take nearby Lynnbury Woods, Messina Hill and Moorton roads to get there. That intersects them with Main Street in Cheswold before hitting the highway.

Ready to provide directions is Cheswold Police Chief Christopher Workman and town officers who aim to keep traffic flowing. Because Firefly is known nationally, there’s no telling who will show up.

“We get a lot of out-of-town traffic coming through due to GPS,” Chief Workman said. “Illinois, Washington, we get them from everywhere. We just try to head them in the right direction.”

Agreeing with what state of Delaware officials and Firefly organizers believe, Chief Workman predicts a likely smooth ride for thousands of vehicles set to arrive here and stay the weekend.

“I’m not expecting too many problems — knock on wood,” he said. “It seems like DelDOT has a good handle on it and has prepared well to keep everything moving like it should.”

Not so fondly, Chief Workman remembers when the sheer number of vehicles overwhelmed Dover area roadways a couple years back.

“You couldn’t move for hours around here,” he said. “My residents were hot, they were ticked. They would drive by and yell at us and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.”

The next town to the north — Smyrna — will see a traffic increase on the U.S. 13 roadway that cuts through, but those charged with keeping it flowing believe any delays will be minimal at most.

Police said last year’s successful traffic patterns eased any concerns of a return to gridlock that effectively shut down travel a couple years ago.

“Last year’s traffic was manageable,” Smyrna Police spokesman, Patrolman 1st Class Brian Donner, said. “It was definitely better than the previous year.”

Pfc. Donner said Thursday night into Friday would bring the heaviest traffic due to a mix of Firefly arrivals and those heading to Delaware’s beaches.

Arrival times help

Due to the long ranging Firefly arrival times last year — and increased this year — Pfc. Donner said “there was not a specific worst period of time” for traffic.

Local authorities have experience in managing large traffic influxes, considering the twice annual NASCAR weekends that bring thousands to the area. While NASCAR crowds make a big push south on Sunday morning,

“Firefly is more of a sustained slow flow south through town between Wednesday to Saturday,” Pfc. Donner said.

In Smyrna, the police staff meets regularly with sergeants to discuss any possible upcoming traffic issues that patrol officers may face, Pfc. Donner said.

The thinking this year is that traffic patterns through Smyrna will be similar to that in 2014, though there’s a possibility of a heavier push today and Thursday due to no single-day tickets being sold this year.

Continuously moving traffic will help Smyrna police quickly respond to other complaints and investigations.

“Our biggest concerns other than basic safety for motorists and pedestrians is always that our response times to all calls for service remain low,” Pfc. Donner said. “We don’t ever want to have delayed responses due to traffic.”

To ensure that all parts of town are quickly accessible, Smyrna Police often will have patrol shifts on the east and west sides of U.S. 13 in case of gridlock.

“This alleviates the need to cross over our busy intersections to respond to calls for service,” Pfc. Donner said.

Patrol sergeants monitor the road conditions and position the officers accordingly, Pfc. Donner said.

South of Dover, Harrington police are well-seasoned when it comes to keeping vehicles moving during large-scale events. The site of the Delaware State Fair brings thousands in daily for a couple weeks in July, leading to potential jams in the early evening and late at night when concerts are letting out.

“The key to keeping everyone moving is for people to know where they’re going, follow signage and directions,” said Lt. Earl K. Brode, another law enforcement member confident in the state’s overall plan to meet Firefly traffic.


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