City Prepares For Graduation Traffic

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- With nearly 3,600 students graduating from James Madison University this weekend, police are warning people to be careful on the roads as there will be a lot more cars with so many visitors.

The busiest times will be before JMU's graduation ceremony at 3 p.m. on Friday and on Saturday throughout the day, starting before 9 a.m.

JMU police, Virginia State Police and Harrisonburg police will direct traffic to help ease the congestion.

Even so, one professor said she plans to leave an hour early, just to make it on time. Another local man said that he's contributing to the congestion, but that it all comes with the territory of living in a college town. As students take senior pictures, looking forward to the next chapter after graduation, others are trying to think of ways to avoid traffic.

"Really hard to get down to exit 245 onto 81, so I was like, not much to do in Harrisonburg if I'm stuck at home," said Eleanor Klement, a JMU rising senior, who is looking forward to emptier roads, "I'm excited for the summer that a lot of JMU people won't be here, not that I don't want them here, but just that the traffic will be definitely different."

Harrisonburg police suggest avoiding streets including South Main near the quad, Port Republic Road and Reservoir Street.

"Advise everybody if they're not involved in the graduation proceedings or they don't really need to be down here in the area, just either stay away from this area or stay at home," said Sgt. P.R. Ritchie Jr., with the Harrisonburg Police Department.

Jeremiah Bishop, a professional mountain biker, will be part of the traffic as he watches his brother-in-law graduate, "Requires you stay a little bit more on your toes because there are a lot of drivers unfamiliar with the local traffic patterns."

Bishop is scheduling his training ride through the city, purposefully around traffic; however, he doesn't mind driving in the congestion, "It's not too bad, it's pretty easy to get around town. Just allowing for a little bit of extra time and being careful."

Even with the possibility of a traffic headache, police said the best thing drivers can do is be patient and pay attention. They also said people living in permit parking zones near the university will also have to deal with less spaces as they won't enforce those zones.


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