When the Republican National Convention comes to Charlotte in 2020, workers and residents can expect lots of changes — and some headaches — in and around uptown during the event, from street closures to security checkpoints to commutes that could get longer.
While it’s too soon to know all the details on how the city will be impacted, 2012’s Democratic National Convention, which Charlotte also hosted, serves as a good example of what might be in store.
Here’s a look at what could be ahead.
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Some roads will likely get shut down for the event, and those closures could last for days, impacting motorists and pedestrians.
For the 2012 convention, a perimeter fence with security checkpoints encircled part of uptown, where the federal government’s security plan called for nearly 30 streets to be restricted or closed.
For pedestrians, plans called for a one-block radius of streets surrounding the then-Time Warner Cable Arena — now Spectrum Center — to be sealed off and only people with credentials allowed inside that perimeter.
The Secret Service also announced a larger area providing “limited access” for pedestrians, including East Fourth Street, from the Mecklenburg County Courthouse at North McDowell Street to South College Street. People looking to enter such areas had to go through security checkpoints.
The DNC security plans also called for the busy John Belk Freeway to be closed from Interstate 77 and Independence Boulevard for at least a day. That section of Interstate 277 handles tens of thousands of vehicles daily.
The 2012 event substantially slowed commutes for some people who encountered major backups created by protesters and changes to traffic patterns.
Charlotte police had advised drivers to add between 20 to 30 minutes to their commute during the DNC. And city officials had advised uptown travelers to take buses or the Lynx light-rail line if possible.
Street access was still unpredictable, as hundreds of marchers and protesters descended on the city.
At one point, about 100 protesters blocked an intersection for two hours near the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Even without a large convention, Charlotte’s roadways are already prone to gridlock.
According to the Charlotte Chamber, about 1 in 4 workers, or 160,000 people, commute to Mecklenburg County.
The federal government’s security plan for the DNC called for a moving security envelope to follow the convention as it moved from the arena to Bank of America Stadium.
According to that plan, 14 security checkpoints were to go in place for pedestrians and six more for vehicles. Delivery trucks were to be screened before entering a restricted area uptown, and much of Charlotte’s center city was to be a no-parking zone.
The Secret Service also requested 2 miles of concrete barriers and more than 5 miles of 9-foot “anti-scale” steel fence. In addition, the federal government requested nearly 8 miles of lightweight metal barriers and portable barriers designed to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound car at 30 mph.
It could take many months until security specifics for the 2020 event are revealed. The government did not release its security plan for the DNC until about a month before the conference began.
Working from home
Major employers said this week it was too soon to announce whether they would allow employees to work from home or other locations.
But some granted the option in 2012.
That included Wells Fargo, which employs about 25,100 in the metro area. This week, Wells spokesman Josh Dunn said the decision to let employees work away from the area impacted by the DNC depended on job types and were made by each line of business.
The bank has not determined what approach it will take for the RNC, he said.
Ahead of the 2012 convention, a Bank of America spokesman had said each department made plans to keep business activities running, including encouraging employees to work from a mix of uptown offices, alternate bank facilities and their homes.
Asked this week whether the bank might let employees work remotely for the RNC, spokeswoman Ferris Morrison said it was too early to say. The bank, which employs about 15,000 in the metro area, planned to work with the city and other officials to determine the best approach for its employees, she said.
Duke Energy spokesman Neil Nissan said the utility allowed uptown employees with noncritical jobs to work remotely for the 2012 convention, while a small number of employees in “critical-function” jobs worked uptown as they normally would have.
Duke plans to undertake a comprehensive planning process to determine work arrangements for the RNC, he said.
Public transit changes
The DNC brought changes that impacted public bus and Lynx riders.
For one, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s main hub for bus and Lynx service had to be moved from Trade Street to a temporary location at Mint and Third streets.
Also, during the DNC the public could use the Lynx except in uptown, where it was reserved for convention attendees to travel between the Charlotte Convention Center and the arena.
A big unknown for the RNC is how newer components of the transportation system will be impacted.
At the time of the DNC, the Lynx system spanned Interstate 485 at South Boulevard to uptown Charlotte. Since then, the system has been extended to UNC Charlotte.
Also since the DNC, the city has opened a streetcar system, the Gold Line, that goes into uptown.
CATS spokeswoman Krystel Green said it was premature for the system to comment on the RNC.
A busy airport
Charlotte Douglas International Airport could get much busier that normal.
The airport saw a record crowd of about 29,500 departing fliers going through TSA checkpoints the Friday after the DNC — one of the busiest travel days in the city’s history up to that point.
This week, the airport said it was too early to comment on the RNC.
For the DNC, airport officials advised departing travelers to arrive three hours early for their flights, as thousands of convention delegates and workers headed for home.
But some convention attendees trying to get out of the city faced long waits for ground transportation to take them to the airport.