Officials expected crossing the Maumee River downtown to be the big traffic problem during the Huntington Tall Ships Toledo festival, and so far that expectation has been met.
Sluggish traffic on the Anthony Wayne Bridge and its approaches was the most visible result yesterday of the festival-related closing of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge and the construction-related detour of southbound Miami Street.
“It's messed up!” groaned Reginald Jordan of South Toledo, as he slogged through the mess on southbound Oak Street between First and Second streets shortly before 3 p.m. “Why do they gotta do everything at the same time?”
Eventually, Mr. Jordan and other motorists peeled off onto Second, hoping side streets would get them around the jammed intersection of Oak and Woodville Road.
“With the High Level [Anthony Wayne] Bridge being the main thoroughfare across the river, we expected it to be congested,” said Toledo police Capt. Louise Eggert, the department's lead traffic planner for the festival. “We have officers out there, and we'll continue to work on it. But there's going to be slowdowns there throughout the event.”
As it did yesterday, the King bridge will close to all but emergency vehicles and pedestrians at 9 a.m. today and reopen at 7 p.m. Construction has narrowed the King to one lane each way since last fall, and authorities decided last week that they'd rather detour traffic around the span than have festival traffic turn it into chaos.
A decision will be made this morning, Captain Eggert said, as to whether the King will stay open or be closed again tomorrow and Sunday. Authorities expect festival attendance and traffic to be heavier today than it was yesterday.
Work to rebuild Miami between Fassett and First streets started last month, and while construction has been suspended during the festival, only one northbound lane is open.
Complicating matters yesterday morning was a lingering closure of northbound I-75 because of a fatal crash Wednesday night near the DiSalle Bridge. One lane reopened shortly before 9:30 a.m., but up until then some detouring traffic worked its way up River Road and Miami Street trying to find another way across the Maumee.
Maurice Morris, a Lucas County sheriff's deputy on traffic duty at Front and Main streets, said he spent more time giving directions than directing traffic.
Traffic was light, too, at the Summit and Cherry streets end of the King bridge. Authorities said it was clear that more severe traffic jams Wednesday on Summit and Front streets had occurred because of extended festival-related openings of the Craig Memorial Bridge.