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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2003

River, street traffic collide

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

John Jeschke professed not to mind the traffic jam he got caught up in on the Anthony Wayne Bridge early yesterday afternoon during one of the Craig Memorial Bridge's openings for the Parade of Sails.

“I think it's great. It's good for the city to have events like this,” the Oregon resident said while waiting for the light to change at Woodville Road and Oak Street after getting close to the head of the line.

But others didn't share that silver-lining view, throwing up their hands in frustration and muttering epithets.

“It sucks,” Kenny Johns said flatly while waiting in backed-up traffic on Front Street while trying to get home from his job at Toledo Edison's Bayshore power plant.

Yesterday's Parade of Sails was only the start of five days of special events that are expected to bring tens of thousands to the downtown riverfront. But a police official said traffic problems might not be as bad during the rest of the Huntington Tall Ships Toledo festival as it was yesterday.

The main reason: Unlike the parade, the ship tours and festival in International Park won't require several extended openings of the Craig bridge, which prompted many I-280 motorists to try their luck with city streets rather than wait for the ships to pass.

“Because of the parade, we thought [yesterday] would be the worst,” said Toledo police Capt. Louise Eggert, in charge of the festival's traffic planning effort.

The availability of shuttle buses to ferry festival-goers from downtown parking lots and garages to International Park should alleviate East Toledo traffic too, Captain Eggert said. Shuttles did not run during the parade yesterday.

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge will remain restricted to pedestrians only between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. today and tomorrow. A decision will be made late today as to whether the same restriction will be imposed during the weekend, when nonfestival traffic should be lighter and more out-of-town festival visitors are expected, Captain Eggert said.

State officials had cautioned that the Craig bridge might be closed to I-280 traffic for as long as an hour yesterday while the parading tall ships sailed through.

As it turned out, the bridge was up for no longer than half an hour at a time.

Cars and trucks flooded onto Front and Summit streets at either end of the bridge, adding that traffic to the vehicles trying to get near the river downtown to watch the parade.



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