Additional access road should ease re-enactment traffic

September 09, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Logistically, the biggest difference between the Battle of Antietam re-enactment five years ago and the one scheduled for next weekend may be an extra road.

Spectators will be able to reach Rench Road, site of the re-enactment, by either Downsville Pike (Md. 632) or Sharpsburg Pike (Md. 65).

Last time, all traffic was directed to Sharpsburg Pike.

Police and event organizers expect the second access road to help the flow of traffic.

Still, if you go, brace yourself for a long wait.

If the weather is good, there could be as many as 70,000 spectators at the three-day re-enactment, about the same number as attended in 1997.


More than 13,000 re-enactors have signed up to participate.

That's a lot of vehicles on the road.

"The best advice is to get there as early as possible to avoid the rush," said Cpl. Daryl Sanders of the Washington County Sheriff's Department. "People always try to get there at once."

"Be patient," said Lt. Greg Johnson of the Maryland State Police barrack outside Hagers-town.

Avoid the entire area of Interstate 70, Downsville Pike and Sharpsburg Pike if you don't need to be there, he suggested.

The re-enactment is scheduled to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Five years ago, the estimate was for 30,000 to 40,000 (people) for Saturday," Sanders said. "This (time) could be just as big."

Saturday battle

The earliest activity will be Saturday's 6 a.m. Cornfield Battle, a re-enactment of the fierce combat that resulted in about 8,500 casualties combined for the Union and Confederacy on Sept. 17, 1862.

The re-enactment site will open to the public Saturday at 3 a.m.

Rench Road will be shut down Sept. 9-18. The paved road surface will be covered with mulch for the re-enactment weekend.

There will be parking lots along both sides of Rench Road.

While spectators will be able to enter from either Downsville Pike or Sharpsburg Pike, re-enactors are being asked to use Downsville Pike, said Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch, who is co-chairman of the Antietam Commemorative Committee.

The Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration will have signs up along Interstate 70, Downsville Pike, Sharpsburg Pike and Interstate 81 guiding motorists to the right exits.

Arch said the signs will assist spectators and re-enactors, who begin checking in Tuesday.

State Highway Administration spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said westbound re-enactment traffic on Interstate 70 will be directed to exit 29, which is Sharpsburg Pike. Eastbound traffic on I-70 will be sent to exit 28, which is Downsville Pike.

"If traffic begins to back up at these intersections, traffic wishing to exit will be directed to line up on the shoulder so that traffic flow on I-70 for through-travelers remains clear," Rakowski wrote in an e-mail. "Our primary goal is to keep traffic moving on the interstates in the area around the event, namely I-70 and I-81."

Traffic updates

Anyone who wants to check on the conditions as they set out for the re-enactment can tune in to 1630 AM on the radio for traffic reports and recommended routes, Rakowski wrote.

The highways and roads leading to the re-enactment site will be staffed by Maryland state troopers, who will help direct traffic, Johnston said.

Sanders said the Washington County Sheriff's Department expects to have at least seven or eight deputies working the event.

"Five years ago, we only had two or three," he said. "It was kind of unnerving. Now, we've got a taste of what it was like."

To help reduce the number of things police and security officers will have to worry about, backpacks and coolers are not allowed at the re-enactment site. Smaller items, such as purses and fanny packs, may be searched.

Lawn chairs are not allowed unless they are the type that folds into a bag, Arch said. No pets are permitted, he said.

Signs listing restrictions will be posted along the roads near the re-enactment site.

People planning to reach the site by traveling north on Sharpsburg Pike should be aware the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival is next weekend and will affect traffic, too.

The 100 block of West Main Street will be closed from 4 p.m. Friday to about 8 p.m. Sunday, said Skip Lushbaugh, the community relations chairwoman for the festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday.

A Heritage Festival shuttle bus will leave Antietam National Battlefield and make three stops in Sharpsburg: at the fire hall alley, at the town square and at the intersection of Antietam and Mechanic streets.

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