Rough ride to Six Flags

Amusement: Expanded park needs improved roads and parking to accommodate more customers.

May 26, 1999

SOME ADVICE for visitors to the new Six Flags America Amusement Park in Largo: Make the trip on a weekday.

Those who dare visit on weekends should be prepared to sit through traffic jams on roads that lead to Maryland's only big-league amusement park and then to scout for scarce parking. Many visitors defy caution and park on the shoulders and grass along Route 214.

So while the new Joker's Jinx roller coaster is not dangerous, getting to it could be.

The $40 million expansion of the former Adventure World -- off Central Avenue (Route 214) midway between U.S. 301 and the Capital Beltway -- is good for the state. Marylanders no longer have to travel elsewhere to enjoy a large-scale amusement park. When Premier Parks Inc. bought and upgraded the facility, it put the Largo venue on par with Paramount's Kings Dominion near Richmond, Va., Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.

The park also brings economic benefit. About 21,000 people showed up at Six Flags on opening day -- three times the expected number. The park's additional visitors are generating more tax revenue for the state and should continue to make a significant economic impact for years to come.

None of this comes without pain, however. Park-goers may be too exhausted to have as much fun if they have to endure traffic and parking obstacles.

Given the large crowds likely to be drawn to Six Flags during summer months, county and state officials ought to start working with Premier Parks on relieving road congestion and parking problems.

Much of the onus, of course, falls on Premier Parks, which benefits most from the increased traffic and business. But all parties are responsible for accommodating and protecting the new customers of this welcome addition.

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