Police and Longwood Gardens security officials are addressing highway crowding during December in an attempt to avoid the gridlock of previous years.Kennett Township Police Chief Albert McCarthy said he has met with the Lt. Shelton Sneed of the state police and Longwood Security Director Greg Papiernik and is hoping to lessen the traffic problems that have occurred as crowds of people arrive at Longwood for special events and to see the lights.
"We found certain things," McCarthy said. "There wasn't enough warning that Longwood was coming up. They'd be in the left lane and realize they had to get over." This year, he said, they have placed several lighted signs, urging drivers to get over ahead of time if they plan to enter the gardens.
"Another problem was the nights were so popular they'd fill the parking lot. So last year, they started parking them in the lot southwest of routes 1 and 52. It worked OK, but it needed improvement," he said.
But there was a problem. Last year, if the main parking lot was filled up, drivers couldn't turn left to go into the overflow parking, this year they removed the medial strip to make the lot more accessible.
Probably the most important improvement, however, was enlisting the help of the Longwood fire police to control the traffic light at the corner of routes 1 and 52.
McCarthy said that during the rush hour in the holiday season, the traffic light timing could handle the 12,000 drivers that went through. On the opening night of the lights, the state police hand-controlled the lights, and on the second night McCarthy did it.
After that, the fire police took over. McCarthy said the gardens are paying them to be on hand every night until the holiday display comes down.
Longwood Gardens spokes-woman Patricia Evans said also that the gardens are selling tickets based on time and day, so visitor volume is spread out. "So far it's working pretty well," she said, adding that pass holders do not need to observe special times.
She added that there is additional parking for high volume times during the weekends at the Exelon parking lot, with a continuous shuttle bus taking visitors to the gardens.
"Longwood wants to work with the community," she said.