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Want to avoid back-ups? Leave early, know shortcuts

Despite efforts to maintain flow, planners say fans should arrive three hours early. And those trying to get around the stadium should use back roads.


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001

TAMPA -- Even if you made it through Gasparilla day gridlock, don't think the traffic mess is over.

Think of the traffic snarls you might encounter with a typical Sunday afternoon Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Multiply that by a thousand headaches, officials say, and that's what it will be like to navigate anywhere near Raymond James Stadium today.

If you don't have a ticket to the game, you may want to simply stay home, "unless you're just a glutton for punishment," said Tampa police Maj. K.C. Newcomb.

Here are a few things you should know:

Besides the thousands of local residents, there will be about 70,000 people heading to the game who are not familiar with Tampa, so the going will be sloooooow.

And since most of the charter buses are coming in from the interstate, try to take local roads.

Tampa Bay Boulevard, which takes you to the rear of the stadium, will be open only to westbound traffic before the game, and eastbound traffic after the game.

Anyone who has a traffic pass was issued a map of the area, Newcomb said, and NFL officials have held training sessions for taxi, limousine and bus drivers to help things run smoothly.

For those without a traffic pass, "Plan to get there at least three hours before the game," said Tampa Detective Mark Foster, who is coordinating the traffic plan.

Cash parking lots are at Hillsborough Community College and the Tampa Bay Center, Foster said, and will run $20 per car, $150 per bus and $100 per RV.

To help those who are unfamiliar with Tampa find their way to the game, he said, about 20 electronic message boards have been strategically placed on Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway.

Meanwhile, the entire process will be monitored from the bowels of the stadium, Newcomb said, from a traffic room equipped with special receivers for the numerous cameras stationed about town.

"We will also have a helicopter to give us an instant view (of traffic), so we can adjust the timing of lights," Newcomb said.

A typical Bucs game uses about 300 off-duty police officers, Newcomb said, and the NFL is paying for more than double that amount for Super Bowl XXXV for both traffic and security.

And as they also do for Bucs games, officials will close Himes Avenue from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Columbus Drive, from 8:30 p.m. until after the game.

Newcomb thinks officials have done everything they can to make sure things flow smoothly.

The charter buses, for example, were given different points of entry to prevent congestion.

For the 800 or so private planes flying in for the game, an entire runway at Tampa International Airport was closed for parking.

Still, there always are unexpected glitches, Newcomb said.

"Let's hope the fender benders are few."

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