Large crowds crippling traffic near Auburn concert venue

AUBURN, Wash. -- Dozens of concertgoers complained on social media last July about being extremely late or missing a Journey concert at the White River Amphitheater.

They blamed traffic gridlock on State Route 164, the two lane road that offers the only way to and from the amphitheater.

"There were 20,000 people that showed up for that concert and it really tipped the scales," said Kevin Snyder, Community Development and Public Works Director for the City of Auburn.

The scales were tipped to a point here the amphitheater operator, Live Nation, hired the traffic engineering firm of Kimley-Horn to conduct a study of the venue's traffic plan.

As a result, Live Nation has reduced the size of the venue from 20,000 to 16,000. It's redesigned the parking lots and streamlined the ingress and egress for concert goers, and has also worked with Auburn and the Washington Department of Transportation to install temporary reader boards along highways leading into the area to advise drivers of congestion and suggest alternative routes.

"We are going to try and encourage folks to go out to Enumclaw and back that way," Snyder said. "It's a longer drive, but they will probably move a lot faster than through the city on Auburn Way South."

The big test for the new plan will come Saturday when there is a confluence of several events, including KUBE's Summer Jam at the amphitheater, a fireworks demonstration at the firework stands near the Muckleshoot Casino, the Veterans Pow Wow, summer weekend traffic and lanes narrowed by road construction.

"It's going to be nightmare," said Han Lee of Flying Fish Sushi, which is situated between the Muckleshoot Casino and the amphitheater. "They don't want to stop here, meantime we losing business."

Live Nation is even paying for staffing of Auburn's Traffic Control Center which traffic flow through the city.

"We have an agreement with Live Nation and they will pay for staff to be in that command center during the concert event and they will actually control the traffic synchronization," said Synder.

Off-site shuttles to the venue that have been offered in the past on selected shows will remain in effect as before.

Synder says these are just temporary fixes agreed upon by the stakeholders involved. The real solution is more capacity on State Route 164.

"To expand that road way you're talking hundreds of millions of dollars, so it's not feasible in any foreseeable future we'll see an expansion of that," said Snyder.
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