By Jason Morton
Technology is here to help football fans navigate the snarls and snafus associated with Alabama game-day traffic in Tuscaloosa.
Smartphone apps such as the recently released UA-Gameday app or the ALGO Traffic (by ALDOT) app can provide information in real time to those making the drive this weekend for the Crimson Tide’s first home football game.
Both are available in the Google Play or Apple App stores.
Much of the information channeled through these free applications will be coming from the Alabama Department of Transportation’s Traffic Management Center on the UA campus, which has a state-of-the-art network of cameras and data sensors to help monitor traffic and keep it moving.
Jonathan Mills, transportation systems management and operations engineer for ALDOT’s West Central region, said the center would be increasing its staffing during the Crimson Tide’s home game weekends to better handle the traffic flow.
“We have 60 cameras all around the city,” Mills said, “so we can monitor pretty much anything around the city of Tuscaloosa.”
Those approaching or leaving Tuscaloosa from the east will no longer see state troopers managing traffic signals. Rather, this year that is being handled by the Traffic Management Center.
And for travelers on Interstate 20/59, the Traffic Management Center can monitor vehicles navigating the work zone between Exits 73 and 81.
“The influx of traffic really fills our roadways to capacity, so we will do our best to adjust signal timings to get that traffic moving as quickly as possible,” Mills said. “We just ask that all traffic coming into game day to use as many exits as they can.”
Nick Frenz, the University of Alabama’s assistant director of transportation event management, urged motorists to arrive early to get through the new metal detectors at Bryant-Denny Stadium and consider any of the four primary exits for entering or exiting Tuscaloosa.
These exits consist of Exit 100, which puts motorists on Alabama Highway 216, Exit 79 to U.S. Highway 11 in Coaling, the McFarland Boulevard exit of Exit 73 or Exit 71, which will bring motorists to downtown Tuscaloosa via Interstate 359, and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard North.
Construction on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard South has reduced this roadway to two lanes and may make it unappealing when leaving Tuscaloosa, but the northbound lanes are not expected to be closed until after the Arkansas State game on Saturday, ALDOT officials said.
But to be sure, Frenz recommended travelers turn to the ALGO Traffic or UAGameday apps before setting out.
“It’s best to keep tabs on it until you leave just to know if traffic is backing up at all, if there’s any accidents or things like that,” Frenz said.
The Bruno Event Team in Birmingham was hired by UA in 2006 to assist the university and other Tuscaloosa authorities in developing a gameday operational plan. That plan has been adjusted as years went on, but the updated information has been maintained at UAGameday.com.
The smartphone app is an extension of this website, but the group also uses traditional social media outlets like Facebook (facebook.com/UAgameday), Twitter (twitter.com/uagameday) and Instagram (instagram.com/ua_gameday) to keep game day travelers up-to-date with the latest information.
But it’s the Traffic Management Center, now in its second year of operation, that’s going to help ALDOT, UA, the Tuscaloosa Police and Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s deputies best when it comes to monitoring and mitigating traffic issues, Frenz said.
“It’s really going to help us out in terms of getting that information out as quickly as we can for people to make alternate adjustments to their routes … ,” Frenz said. “All of us in one room (and) pooling our resources together is going to make for a much better experience for fans, pre- and postgame, in terms of being able to get that information out quickly and be able for them to adjust their traffic patterns.”
Reach Jason Morton at email@example.com or 205-722-0200.