CHARLOTTE, N.C. Uptown Charlotte traffic didn’t seize with gridlock as the Democratic National Convention kicked off Tuesday, but it did endure some serious tie-ups, including one that occurred when protesters planted themselves in a major intersection.
As the convention continues Wednesday, many uptown streets remain closed. City officials advise uptown travelers to take buses or the Lynx light-rail line if possible. If you’re driving, allow extra time.
Another possible Wednesday traffic disruption: Air Force One is scheduled to land at Charlotte Douglas International Airport at 2:45 p.m. President Barack Obama’s motorcade may complicate afternoon travel on routes from the airport. The president is believed to be staying at the Ballantyne Hotel and Resort, though spokespersons for the hotel and the Obamas aren’t talking.
Charlotte Area Transit System buses are on a regular weekday schedule, but again will operate from the temporary transit center at Third and Mint streets. CATS buses were running about 10 minutes behind Tuesday. Delays were also reported on some rerouted express routes, but CATS spokesman Olaf Kinard said officials hope to have problems resolved by Wednesday.
And will it rain again? Chances for Wednesday are 60 percent, the National Weather Service says. Blame remnants of once-Hurricane Isaac, which seem determined to stick around for the convention.
Tuesday’s commute was better than many expected. Credit goes to thousands of uptown workers who chose to work from home or remote locations.
One exception was East Stonewall Street. The street was converted to one-way for westbound traffic between 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. between Caldwell and South Tryon streets in an attempt to ease convention traffic. It will remain one-way for those same hours Wednesday.
The move didn’t prevent backups, however. Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, traffic was so slow that some passengers were bailing from taxi and limousines and opting to walk to their destinations.
“Whatever you do,” one woman tweeted, “don’t drive down Stonewall in CLT. It’s a parking lot.”
Around noon, MSNBC employee Gene Hagel was stuck at Stonewall and Tryon streets. His normal 15-minute commute had turned into nearly an hour.
“I’m not going to let it be frustrating,” he said. “Things may not go the way we want them to. It may be a pain to wait. But this is a historic moment.”
Traffic only got worse when about 200 protesters moved into the intersection of Caldwell and Stonewall streets for about two hours Tuesday afternoon. Traffic heading into uptown on Caldwell and the Interstate 277 inner loop came to a halt.
Several DNC delegates said the private buses shuttling them to events Tuesday didn’t encounter serious delays, although there were sporadic reports of slowdowns.
And children attending uptown schools were transported without incident, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported. As planned, First Ward Creative Arts Academy dismissed early to avoid traffic jams. The school will dismiss early again Wednesday and Thursday.
Two other center-city schools – Metro School and Irwin Academic Center – will dismiss early Thursday. All three will be back on normal schedules Friday.
On the Lynx line, regular commuters reported fewer people riding than on Monday, when throngs used the train to get to CarolinaFest.
Justin Sherrill, who lives in Los Angeles, took the Lynx into uptown Tuesday morning. “The public transportation here is better than L.A.,” Sherrill said. “It was really easy to manage.”
About 1,400 U.S. Postal Service customers uptown are not getting or receiving mail from their homes or businesses from Tuesday to Thursday, a Postal Service spokeswoman says.