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Many avoid traffic nightmares

Arriving hours before the game pays off for fans from near and far.

By AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001


TAMPA -- After Saturday's Gasparilla traffic nightmare, Sunday's Super Bowl traffic appeared to be not much worse than a normal Bucs game. That means it's wasn't great, but it wasn't a horror show.

Besides, it was the Super Bowl, and even those stuck in traffic seemed willing to put up with just about anything if they had tickets in hand.

Locals and visitors alike appeared to heed officials' warnings to arrive at Super Bowl XXXV hours early to avoid gridlock headaches.

Other than the expected bumper-to-bumper traffic around Raymond James Stadium itself, most fans found it smooth going -- especially those who knew what they were doing.

"It was better than a Bucs game," said Tampa resident Sharon Castillo, who arrived at the stadium with a friend about 1 p.m. She avoided the interstate, Castillo said, and drove right in to Al Lopez Park, where she parked for $10 and walked a few minutes to arrive at the game.

"I thought the line was longer at the liquor store," she said.

Other fans agreed.

"We came yesterday and scouted it out," said Baltimore resident Charles Edelin, who drove to the game from Treasure Island and arrived about 2 p.m.

"So we parked at the Wal-Mart on Dale Mabry. It only took us about 20 minutes to walk," Edelin said. "We knew darn well once we got close to here it would be a free-for-all."

Those who left later and took the interstate had the most problems.

"Getting from the airport to here was tough," said Baltimore resident Anne Freedman, who flew in shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday with her family. They then rented a car, Freedman said, and fought traffic to arrive at the game about 3:40 p.m.

"From the airport to the stadium took us about an hour and a half," she said of what should have been a 10-minute drive. "But it's our first Super Bowl, so I guess it's worth it."

Among the loudest traffic complainers were members of the news media, who have the ability to spread those complaints far and wide.

A shuttle for reporters from the Tampa Convention Center to the stadium took so long some riders got out many blocks away to walk.

As far as officials were concerned, months of planning paid off.

"It went better than expected," said Tampa police Maj. K.C. Newcomb, who reported no major glitches.

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