A nightmare traffic scenario occurred during the first day of the inaugural PGA Tour Champions event at University Ridge last year when an unexpected throng of spectators drove to the golf course early and tangled with the daily cavalcade of commuters heading to nearby Epic, which employs more than 9,500 people.
Similar traffic problems aren’t expected when the American Family Insurance Championship begins Friday at University Ridge, partly because of lessons learned during the first day of the tournament last year, according to a Madison police official.
“Now we know the level of interest (in the tournament) in our community, we know traffic patterns, we researched (road) construction for what it will be like that week and we’re hoping for really good weather. We feel we have a good handle on it,” Lt. Mike Hanson said.
Hanson is optimistic despite a couple of factors that have the potential to stress traffic flow during the three-day tournament on the Far West Side: There’s road construction on Highway PD in both directions near the course’s entrance and crowds are expected to surge past last year’s surprising three-day total of 57,000 because Madison golfers Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly will be playing.
Although Highway PD is narrowed to two lanes in an area around the golf course,there is signage that “makes it very clear about what lanes to be driving in” to get to and from the event,” Hanson said.
Also, Epic employees will be advised this week to avoid traveling to and from work on Highway PD or other roads near University Ridge on Friday, spokeswoman Meghan Roh said.
Madison police as well as UW-Madison police, Verona police and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office will work on traffic control during the tournament, Hanson said.
“We will have a contingency of officers working at various intersections and they will address the traffic flow,” Hanson said. “If everything is going as planned and there’s no need to alter the traffic situation, we’ll leave it status quo. If it is backed up or if there are bottlenecks throughout any of these high-volume roads, then we’ll have officers direct traffic.”
Most of the traffic problems last year occurred when spectators unexpectedly showed up a few hours before the first golfer teed off in the tournament and police weren’t there yet to control traffic, according to University Ridge General Manager Mike Gaspard. He was told that it took about two hours to drive four miles on Highway PD from Verona Road to the golf course entrance the first morning of the tournament.
It got so bad that PGA Tour Champions golfer Skip Kendall, a native of Mequon who was stuck in the traffic quagmire, made news when he said he needed a police motorcycle escort to make his tee time.
Law enforcement officials resolved the problem by making Highway PD westbound only.
“Once that got cleared up we didn’t have any issues the rest of the weekend,” Gaspard said.
The best way to get to the course remains Highway PD (McKee Road) from either Raymond Road, Fish Hatchery Road, Seminole Highway or Verona Road to the east of the course; or Highway M (Pleasant View Road) from Mineral Point Road or Mid-Towne Road to the north of the course or from the city of Verona to the south of the course, Hanson said.
Most cars will be parked onsite at UW-Madison’s cross country course, Hanson said. If the course fills up or is closed because of rain, overflow parking will be available at lots at Madison Bible Church on Highway M, just south of the Highway PD intersection and in Verona at Badger Ridge Middle School, Verona High School and Reddan Soccer Park.
Spectators will be shuttled from those lots to the golf course, Hanson said.
Hanson asked for one favor from spectators to help with traffic and parking: “Please carpool,” he said.