Despite weekend traffic snarls that prompted the temporary shutdown of the only highway exits to Arundel Mills, company officials and police say they're ready for the thousands of shoppers expected to hit Maryland's new megamall Friday, the year's biggest shopping day.
State and county police say they will continue to monitor each of the six key intersections to the state's largest mall next weekend in hopes of avoiding closing the Ridge Road exit off Route 100 again because of a lack of parking at the Hanover shopping center.
"It was almost like a Disneyland opening up," said Sgt. Mike Maresca of the state police barrack at Glen Burnie.
More than 260,000 shoppers hit the 1.3 million-square-foot mall between Friday and Sunday and spent more than $7 million, according to mall officials.
By early Saturday afternoon, heavy traffic congestion on Route 100 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and a packed parking lot caused police to shut down the Ridge Road/Arundel Mills Boulevard exit.
The eastbound exit was closed for about an hour, and the westbound for about 25 minutes, he said. Signs warning that the mall's parking lots were full were placed on Route 100 and Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
During the months of planning for the mall's opening, police told Mills Corp. officials that if lots were full, the exits would have to close, Maresca said.
The mall's permanent 6,500 parking spaces are about 1,000 more than the county can legally require based on the amount of retail space, Anne Arundel County spokesman John A. Morris said.
But those spaces weren't enough. The mall added 2,500 parking temporary spaces Friday night and an additional 1,500 Sunday by pouring gravel on a lot southeast of the mall, said Gene Condon, the mall's vice president and general manager.
Police are looking at the design of the temporary lots to see whether shoppers can park more efficiently to allow more cars in those lots, Maresca said.
In an attempt to relieve congestion, police monitoring the intersections will direct drivers to use all four entrance roads, as police did last weekend, said Officer Charles Ravenell, a department spokesman.
He also believes the ramps won't have to close this weekend. "We feel like we'll be better prepared because we'll know what to expect," Ravenell said.
Sun staff writer Marcia Myers contributed to this article.