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How Will Penn State's New Football Traffic System Impact Toftrees?

by on August 22, 2019 12:53 PM

With Penn State's new traffic and parking system for football home games this fall, fans will be directed to follow specific routes for designated lots in one of four parking zones. One of those routes runs through Toftrees Avenue, and on Wednesday, university representatives spoke at the Patton Township Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss how it will work and the impact it could have for Toftrees residents.

Patton Township manager Doug Erickson said fans have always used Toftrees Avenue and Fox Hollow Road to get to games, and ultimately he expects the new plan will adequately manage gameday traffic through the area.

"The issue that we wanted to look at and see if we could come to some conclusion is what kind of impact would this new plan have," Erickson said.

With the new plan, developed with national traffic and parking consultant SP+, parking lots are divided into four zones — north, south, east and west — and four hours before each game (three and a half before noon kickoffs) fans will be directed to follow routes designated for those zones. For lots in the north zone, drivers will be directed to follow Interstate 99 to Waddle Road to Toftrees Avenue to Fox Hollow Road. 

Penn State police Assistant Chief Bill Moerschbacher, who manages gameday traffic, said in the past it's been difficult to predict where the heaviest gameday traffic will come from. At the same time, the university needed to manage safety issues with a large number of vehicles and pedestrians around the stadium.

"We’re removing the traffic sorting to the outskirts of campus," Kathryn Benda, director of football gameday operations said. "It’s more of a wheel and spoke scenario, as SP+ would say. We have our main arteries that come to campus, so those that are parking on the north, they would come from the north. Those parking on the east would come through the east."

Gameday cash permit sales will only take place in the east and west zones, so vehicles headed to a game that do not already have a north zone permit should not be coming through Toftrees.

Two state troopers will be stationed at the intersection of Toftrees Avenue and Fox Hollow Road, Benda said, and they will be looking to ensure that vehicles coming through have a north zone permit. They will have redirection cards to distribute to drivers without the correct permit with instructions on how to get to the proper route during the four-hour window.

Penn State also will fund two other police officers to be stationed along Toftrees Avenue in areas the township decides are best.

"We know that with this plan it will be a little bit difficult for people to learn it, especially the first three games," Benda said. "We’re fully aware of that... It’s going to be a learning curve."

PennDOT has also placed a camera in the Toftrees/Fox Hollow area to conduct a traffic count and the footage will be shared with the township.

Moerschbacher and Benda said that in the past traffic apps like Waze played a role in heavier traffic coming through Toftrees. When traffic would back up on North Atherton Street, the app would route drivers through Toftrees. This year, Penn State has partnered with Waze and has editing capabilities. So on game days, drivers looking for directions to stadium lots will be directed to the designated routes for each zone during the four-hour window.

"We’re able to control which direction people can come with this app," Benda said. "We’ll have a Waze editor in our dispatch center on game days so we will have that really open instruction to him for where he can redirect people. We’ll have more of a say in the Waze app distribution of traffic."

Supervisor Dan Treviño said he was concerned about residents not going to games having to take a major detour to get where they are going. But Moerschbacher said that isn't much different from how things have been for at least the last decade. The new plan, he said, may in fact save some hassles.

"Last year, for example, if a vehicle was not going to football traffic, they would have gotten through the Fox Hollow-Toftrees intersection and they would have only gotten down to the Fox Hollow and Orchard Road intersection, then we would have had to turn them around and send them out," Moerschbacher said. "One of the things we’re trying to do here is not let them get so deep into the problem."

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Moerschbacher added that most permit holders will be instructed to leave after the game via the same route they came in.

Communication is a part of the plan as well. Penn State held several town halls to answer questions and has been promoting the #RunYourRoute social media campaign and information at GoPSUsports.com/gameday, as well as sending messaging to fans and visiting teams. New, blue signs directing drivers to parking zones are being placed in key areas coming into State College, and supervisors approved on Wednesday placing a sign on Waddle Road.

"We are hoping this will help people understand that 'Oh I should be taking this exit instead of going the normal route that I go,'" Benda said. "We’re trying to educate them ahead of time so they understand before they get to campus."

Supervisor Jessica Buckland said she appreciates the partnership of town and gown and understands "Penn State football runs the place in the fall," but that she wished the university would have had direct communication with the township much earlier about the plan.

"My main frustration is that no one came to talk to us before you came to talk to us. They come to us from Movin’ On, the students who run that concert, just to let us know it might be loud," Buckland said. "Traffic is something people feel really strongly about and we talk to people about it a lot. They feel very disrespected when these things just happen. My main concern is for people who live there and making sure they are not too inconvenienced. I’m not really that worried about people going to the games. I don’t want people to have to drive 10 miles out of the way to get to their house."

Benda said that Penn State will hold meetings with the municipalities and police after the first three games and after the season, as well as working with them early on implementation plans for 2020.

"In hindsight we would have brought this up to you a long time ago," Benda said. "From this point forward we will have more of a collaborative effort."

Erickson said from his perspective, after evaluating scenarios, the new system is a "workable plan" that will result in an acceptable traffic volume.

"One of the advantages of this permit system is it really does limit the amount of traffic that comes to Toftrees," he said. "We know the first couple of games there will be a learning curve, but after that we should be restricted to the folks going to the north zone.

"During most pregame conditions, I don’t think we’re going to see a serious impact on Toftrees. It will be heavy traffic. … but as long as Penn State can keep moving people off of Fox Hollow Road and into the parking lots then traffic can keep moving on Fox Hollow and traffic can keep moving on Toftrees."

He added that bigger games, and especially those with noon kickoffs, will result in backups, "but it’s done that before too."

Supervisor Elliot Abrams said Penn State likely will find areas for improvement after the first game, but commended the university for tackling the traffic problem.

"Everyone talks about herding cats," Abrams said. "Well, lions are large cats and they have to be herded on Saturday."

Penn State Football Parking Zones

(For more detailed information, visit GoPSUsports.com/gameday)

NORTH ZONE

Access via Fox Hollow Rd. traveling south from Tofttrees Avenue/Waddle Road/I-99/US 322.

ORV
Lot 21 (RV)
Lot 22
Lot 23
Lot 24

SOUTH ZONE

Access via Porter Road traveling north from College Avenue/US 26.

Lot 41
Lot 42
Lot 43
Lot 44
Lot 45
Lot 46
Lot 47
Family Friendly (FF)

EAST ZONE

Access via Park Avenue traveling west from I-99/US 322.

Lot 31
Lot 32
Lot 33
Lot 34
Lot 36
Lot 37
Lot 38
Lot 39

WEST ZONE

Access via Park Avenue traveling east from North Atherton Street/ I-99/322.

Lot 11
Lot 12
Lot 13
Lot 14
Lot 15
Lot 16
Lot 17
Lot 18



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected]om or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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