John Seto, Ann Arbor Police Chief, led a community meeting Tuesday to discuss traffic concerns and changes during University football games and the upcoming International Champions Cup game between Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Following recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security in 2013 and a request from the University, several roads were closed before and after football games this year.
Planned modifications from last year’s closings include blocking off Main Street southbound one hour prior to kick off instead of three, prompted by community input. While Main Street northbound will remain closed three hours prior to games, both north and southbound traffic on Main Street will be open after the game.
Community complaints expressed at the meeting included a lack of police officers directing traffic after the games, traffic control strategy alterations for the upcoming soccer game, making more one-way streets to create more movement out of the city post-game and the need for more communication between attendees about what roads will be closed and how the traffic flow is managed.
Various modifications, such as the Main Street closure, will occur for all seven of the Michigan football games this fall, including the Slippery Rock University game. Along with manual control of traffic lights, officers will be sent out to observe traffic and report issues, various streets will be closed and contingencies are being considered to deal with possible construction.
Seto cited weather and a lack of available officers to execute more extensive traffic planning as the cause for extreme delays, specifically post-game. Another cause of the extensive traffic jam post-game is drivers not utilizing all available roads, he said.
“We also beefed up the communication plan so that people know that this should not affect post-game traffic, because prior to the meeting, we found out that many people were under the assumption that it was going to impact post game traffic, which it should not,” Seto said. “One of the biggest issues is that people go out the way they came in, not realizing that Main Street is open and would be a more expedient way to leave the city.”
Seto said further conversation would be had about what changes needed to be made to the current traffic control plans in preparation for the August 2 soccer game between Manchester United and Real Madrid, which may pose different issues than a football game.
“I’ve been told that as far as the soccer game, there is more of a likelihood that the game will be closer in score, so people will stay until the end of the game, unlike a football game where the score could be more lopsided,” he said.
Neighborhood disturbance was also cited as a problem during the meeting, specifically when game attendants use them as shortcuts to avoid traffic. Another nuisance mentioned was the potential danger and annoyance of overhead helicopters in residential areas.
Seto said he could not implement significant changes to State Street or nearby side streets because of the limited number of officers.
“It’s a balance between security and inconvenience,” he said.
Along with several city residents, Councilmembers Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) and Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) were in attendance at the meeting. The street closure resolution will be presented to them and the rest of city council July 7 for approval.