By Danielle Eaton
WEST SPRINGFIELD – With the Big E around the corner, a large cause for concern has been and will continue to be the construction of the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge.
The bridge, which is currently down to a single lane each way, is scheduled to be under construction until 2022 and is a popular route for fair-goers to get to the Big E. Both Agawam and West Springfield, towns connected by the bridge, are taking steps to prepare and try to alleviate the inevitable traffic congestion.
Agawam Mayor, William Sapelli, told Reminder Publishing the two towns have been working closely with the Big E to make “traffic flow as best we can.”
The Big E, who Sapelli said has been “incredibly cooperative,” has met with town officials two times already and will have another meeting with them soon.
Sapelli said the West Springfield and Agawam police departments have also met to go over details, plan work together, and have even synced their radio frequencies for easier communication throughout the fair.
Other steps being taken to try to reduce traffic congestion will be the use of additional signs, extra police details, and the Big E encouraging vendors to use different routes. However, he said the towns and Big E are going to have “to learn as we go along.”
He also encouraged people to avoid going through Agawam if possible. “Don’t go through Agawam because that bridge is a bottleneck, especially Connecticut traffic.It’s going to bring them to the bridge and the traffic is going to be backed up,” he said.
Sapelli said the best routes for people to take are I-91 or by taking Route 5, crossing the Memorial Bridge, and then continuing down Memorial Avenue to the fairgrounds. West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt, however, said people should avoid driving altogether if they can.
He said, “My recommendation is once you get to the point of a quarter-mile it’s faster to park and walk.”
Reichelt suggested either parking on the Agawam side of the bridge, which Sapelli said now has sidewalks “back in place,” or parking at one of the homes offering parking in West Springfield before walking to the fairgrounds.
Additionally, Sapelli said there will be no construction taking place on the top of the bridge throughout the fair.
The Big E has partnered with King Ward Buses to provide those planning to attend the fair with another transportation option. This year, for $5, people will be able to take a weekend shuttle from both the Enfield Square Mall and Holyoke Mall to the fairgrounds.
The shuttle will run both Saturday’s and Sunday’s picking up from the mall every half hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and returning to the malls every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Those taking the shuttle will be able to park for free at the malls.
Tickets for the Enfield shuttle can only be bought with cash at the commuter lot, at the Holyoke Mall shuttle tickets can be purchased at the White Lot.
MGM Springfield is going to provide shuttle service to and from the Big E daily from MGM Springfield via King Ward.
People can park at the casino for free and take a free shuttle to The Big E.
Another transit option available to those planning to travel by train is a weekend shuttle from Union Station. The shuttle runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers commuters a ride to the Big E for free from the station.
While precautions are being taken and taking public transportation is encouraged, Reichelt told Reminder Publishing he thinks traffic is inevitable. “No matter what we do, no matter how many lanes you put there, there’ll always be traffic,” he said.
However, he said he doesn’t think it will be “catastrophic,” but instead, “it’s just an inconvenience.”
Reichelt noted that emergency service vehicles will be able to get through if needed.