Archive for Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Speedway traffic causes minimal problems

October 3, 2001

Although the most recent race weekend met with an overflow of traffic on Kansas Highway 7 and Interstate 70, local law enforcement agencies experienced minimal trouble.

During the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30, the Kansas Motor Speedway was expected to receive crowds upward of 100,000 for the first major NASCAR races.

Both the Basehor and Tonganoxie police departments reported little change in their everyday routine in dealing with visitors to the speedway.

"Traffic was no more congested than on any other weekday," Basehor Police Chief Vince Weston said.

The Basehor Police Department did have additional officers on duty and also officers on call for the weekend, although Weston said none were needed.

"We didn't have any problems," Weston said. "We had to give directions to people that were lost occasionally, but there weren't any calls for service. Everything went as smooth as can be."

Although most race day weekends for police prove to be quiet, Weston said the department is on call to the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol in case of an emergency.

Dispatcher Mike Vestal said the Tonganoxie Police Department did not have trouble in dealing with traffic during the weekend.

"We didn't have anything to speak of," Vestal said. "We had no problems whatsoever because there was nothing going on at all."

Vestal said the Police Department did have an additional officer on duty during the weekend and officers were also on standby in case another agency needed assistance.

"We'd do mutual aid if they needed us, but there wasn't anything to do this weekend," Vestal said. "Everything was quiet."

Although most of the Leavenworth County police departments had an easy weekend in regards to speedway traffic, officers from the Bonner Springs and Edwardsville police departments and the Kansas Highway Patrol were quite busier because the track is located at Interstate 435 and I-70.

KHP troopers said traffic plans that were developed for the weekend had a few problems but overall things ran smoothly.

"We feel like everything was very successful," KHP Second Lt. Sam Mills said. "We've got a great gig here and we're proud of our people and how this went."

Mills said the troopers handled approximately 200,000 visitors to the track during the weekend and most saw few delays.

"They're tickled about the traffic flow," Mills said. "We set records on in-bound and outbound traffic."

There were some problems with the traffic flow into the track, however. On Saturday morning, northbound traffic on Kansas Highway 7 was backed up past the Nettleton Avenue overpass in Bonner Springs.

"The K-7/I-70 intersection is a mess," Mills said. "That creates a problem. As long as that intersection remains the way it is, we're going to continue having problems in the future."

Bonner Springs Police Chief John Haley said the K-7 traffic backup was caused by the nearly 20,000 visitors to the Renaissance Festival that day.

Haley said many of the cars trying to get to the speedway followed cars going to the Renaissance Festival when turning off K-7, creating traffic problems.

"We had a large number of people that pulled up in the Renaissance Festival parking lot and said, 'Hey, this isn't the speedway," Haley said.

Haley said the department did a good job working with the KHP in handling the weekend traffic problems.

"I'm proud of the job they did," Haley said of his officers, who worked long shifts, splitting time between directing traffic and patrolling the city streets during race weekend.

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