Drivers would be well advised to stay as far as possible from downtown Madison on Saturday night. Traffic will appropriately be nightmarish through the evening, as two of the three primary routes crossing the isthmus will be closed to traffic due to the Freakfest party on State Street. As has been the case over many Halloweens past, the city has responded by creating a traffic plan that both drivers and Madison Metro buses as far from this event as possible.
What happens is relatively simple. As State Street fills up with revelers, its intersections with Gorham and Johnson streets will be closed, leaving John Nolen Drive as the only primary route between the east and west sides, other than the Beltline. It's this road that all cross-isthmus traffic will be diverted to, though it will be anything but easy for drivers.
Large stretches of Gorham and Johnson will be closed on either side of State Street, leaving a route that rings the southern rim of the isthmus, from Blair Street in the Old Marketplace neighborhood to John Nolen Drive, and from there to Broom and Bassett, or Proudfit and Regent streets to and from the near west and south sides. A map of this traffic plan is attached in the related downloads at right.
These alternate traffic routes will be implemented on Friday night as necessary; in 2006, the police closed State Street after midnight for a short period before reopening all streets after the 2 a.m. bar time. These routes will be in operation through much of Saturday, though, beginning at 5:30 p.m. and running until 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. No parking zones, meanwhile, which will be in effect on many roads adjacent to State, will be in effect from 9 a.m. on Saturday until 3 a.m. on Sunday. And of course, the city warns that these plans are subject to change without notice.
Metro transit is also implementing a number of detours over the weekend, the first of which was on Friday afternoon and evening for the UW Homecoming Parade. Then, starting Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., numerous primary routes free 81/82 routes servicing downtown neighborhoods with large concentrations of UW students will likewise be detoured during this period, with delays also expected.
Meanwhile, the Buckeye Lot -- a surface parking area located between Gorham and Gilman streets in the center of the State Street neighborhood -- will be closed all day Saturday. Due to the fact that this space will be one of the locations with live music on stage during Freakfest, the lot will be closed starting at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning as trucks begin to unload equipment for the party. Signs about the closure were posted on Friday afternoon, with towing to commence immediately on Saturday. A private lot that conjoins Buckeye will retain access until 4 p.m., meanwhile, though no public parking will be allowed.
Not all State Street merchants near the lot were happy about its closure last year. Due to this, and the generally mixed reactions that these businesses give with regards towards Halloween's effect on their bottom line, the Madison Central Business Improvement District (BID) is promoting that the "downtown is open for business" through the entire weekend. "Downtown welcomes residents, game day and homecoming visitors and Freakfest attendees to explore more than 350 stores, boutiques, gift shops, and galleries-many locally owned-plus restaurants, cafes and night spots," declares BID Executive Director Mary Carbine in the announcement, which is also being targeted towards UW alumni on Facebook.
Not matter what happens, Saturday is sure to be crowded downtown whether one is on foot or on wheels.