Whitbread and jam Annapolis: Avoiding gridlock is key with international race overlapping boat show.

February 27, 1998

ORGANIZERS OF THE Whitbread Round the World Race and Annapolis' Spring Boat Show should have avoided scheduling events in the town on the same weekend. It's tough enough to find scarce parking spots or restaurant tables in the state capital on weekends once warm weather arrives. Now the May 1 weekend could be a logistical nightmare.

The overlap of those two sailing events compounds problems in Annapolis. Although they complement each another, neither the boat show nor the Whitbread wants to share the spotlight. At this late date, Annapolis officials can't do much to rectify that problem.

So they have to start making plans for handling the tremendous influx of people likely to flood Annapolis on the weekend that begins Friday, May 1. The good news is city leaders still have almost two months to map out a sound strategy.

The crush of visitors for the well-publicized Whitbread is likely to top the annual horde each autumn when Annapolis plays host simultaneously to the U.S. Naval Academy homecoming football game and the U.S. Boat Show.

There's no way officials can create more hotel rooms or restaurants. So they must work with merchants and residents to ease traffic and parking congestion.

Keeping tourists' cars out of the center of Annapolis should be a priority. Access to downtown residential streets should be limited to people who live in those neighborhoods. Otherwise, gridlock will reign from morning until last call at the downtown bars.

People coming to gawk at the Whitbread ocean racers or vessels on display at the boat show should be directed to park on satellite lots and take a bus downtown. That's not inhospitable; in fact, visitors may thank the city later for discouraging them from trying to venture to the waterfront by car.

One doesn't need an auto in Annapolis' delightfully walkable historic district, which is about as European as a Maryland city gets. It's not too late to bring in the Mass Transit Administration to schedule shuttle buses from far outside the city limits.

The goal should be to make the capital city sparkle during its big weekend in the spotlight this spring.

Pub Date: 2/27/98

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