Show Me Center officials say Wednesday's traffic tie-up was unavoidable

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Representatives of the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Show Me Center disagree on the cause of Wednesday's traffic jam before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's concert at the Show Me Center.

Show Me Center business manager Greg Talbut said Monday the traffic problem, which backed up vehicles along Sprigg Street south of the Show Me Center for as much as a half-hour, was caused by unforeseen circumstances at the 19-year-old venue. Talbut said Wednesday's traffic situation was the first of its kind encountered by the arena.

About 5,500 people attended TSO's third performance in Cape Girardeau in three years.

"There's not much you can do when there was a traffic accident that has not occurred in 19 years," Talbut said.

But the Cape Girardeau Police Department disagrees with the Show Me Center about the impact of the accident, which occurred at Sprigg Street and Emerald Street around 7 p.m., 30 minutes before the concert's scheduled start time.

"As far as the accident, we do not consider it to be a contributing factor," said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department. "The road was cleared, it was a minor fender bender, nothing that would have sped up or slowed down the traffic."

Hovis said city police aren't trying to be critical of the Show Me Center and will assist the venue with traffic issues when assistance is requested. The city didn't send officers to reroute the traffic Wednesday night because all points of access to parking for the event were being used at capacity and because the venue didn't request assistance, he said.

"That has to be a decision made by the people working there onsite," Hovis said.

The Cape Girardeau Police Department responded to the two-car accident Wednesday night, but did not direct traffic at the venue.

The Southeast Missouri State University Department of Public Safety is responsible for routing traffic at arena events. Three officers were working at the Wednesday night concert, two for security in the arena, one directing traffic. When the accident was cleared, Talbut said the traffic officer began routing traffic at the intersection of Sprigg Street and New Madrid Street and traffic began to move more quickly.

University police director Doug Richards said only three entrances were open for parking at the concert, and those routes were all congested.

Two entrance points off New Madrid Street were in use, as well as an entrance point on Sprigg Street north of the Show Me Center. During the accident traffic going north on Sprigg Street was unable to reach the Sprigg Street entrance.

Some Show Me Center parking was also blocked due to construction in the area, so some people attending the concert had to park at Dempster Hall across New Madrid Street from the Show Me Center.

Talbut said there is no single plan that has been formulated to prevent similar situations in the future.

"It's the kind of thing you have to respond to on an event-by-event basis," Talbut said.

Long-term university plans include a street that would connect the Show Me Center parking lot to Bertling Street, but no time frame for constructing the street has been given, university facilities management director Scott Meyer, said.

335-6611, extension 182

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