Fans soon will flood Baylor University’s McLane Stadium for its first football game of the season, and the university is using maps, apps and plenty of reminders to plan ahead to avoid traffic snarls through Interstate 35 construction.
Baylor Associate Athletics Director Drew Pittman said the university’s event management and facilities division has been fine-tuning its game day game plan for the last five seasons at McLane Stadium, but this year it is dealing with the added challenge of construction along Interstate 35 near the stadium. Its first test during construction will come Saturday ahead of Baylor’s 6 p.m. kickoff against Stephen F. Austin State University, and Labor Day traffic flowing through town will add to the challenge.
“We will put out new information prior to every game because there might be changes regarding construction,” Pittman said. “There will be new routes that come into play, and that’s the biggest challenge this year.”
He said Baylor works with WSP, an engineering company, to come up with a traffic plan every year, a process that starts nearly as soon as the previous year’s season ends.
Returning students and families will have to navigate a few changes. The frontage roads on both sides of the highway have changed. The pedestrian bridge at Eighth Street has been torn down, along with the overpass at 11th and 12th streets. Southbound Exit 334A, which leads to Fourth and Fifth streets, will be closed along with a portion of Dutton Avenue that stretches from Fifth Street to Eighth Street.
Much like every previous game day at McLane Stadium, University Parks Drive will be closed from the Baylor Law building to Bagby Avenue, as will its northbound ramp for I-35, and a portion of Third Street from behind South Russell Residence Hall to Speight Avenue.
Pittman said one change will make the drive easier on some guests. The southbound exit for Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be open for the first time since the stadium’s construction.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Pittman said.
He said the university plans to keep up-to-date information flowing throughout the season.
The university is working with the Waze app’s partner program to provide navigation to and from specific paid parking sites. Pittman said the school has used a similar program in the past, but Waze will update its routes based on closures as they happen.
Shuttles will start running to the stadium three hours before kickoff from the Ferrell Center, Speight Parking Garage and from Third Street and Franklin Avenue in downtown, where free parking will be available. A shuttle that complies with Americans With Disabilities Act standards will start running at 8 a.m. from the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative to a stop near Gate C at the stadium.
“We want to encourage people to come early,” Pittman said. “There’s some reduced lanes on the interstate, especially. There are a lot of activities at the stadium before kickoff, and we want to encourage people to enjoy those festivities and enjoy the game.”
The Texas Department of Transportation will continue to make a map displaying traffic and weather conditions, along with a list of closures planned for the next 24 hours, available at waco4bmap.org/#map, TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said. Travelers can even get a live look at traffic conditions through TxDOT camera feeds posted on the site.
TxDOT also will have extra signs out to direct traffic and alert drivers to closures, Roberts said.
The holiday weekend alone would have been enough to cause an increase in traffic, he said.
“In this case we have a first game day falling on a holiday weekend,” Roberts said. “We’re preparing for twice the traffic we’d normally see. There will be considerable traffic.”
That stretch of Interstate 35 usually sees about 140,000 vehicles a day, he said.