Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
The second annual Canadian Dairy XPO, held Feb. 5-6 in Stratford at the Rotary Complex, was another success for organizers, drawing an estimated 13,000 people from around the world.
But with those crowds came some major headaches for city officials and police, who had to deal with snarly traffic and a lack of parking.
On the first day of the XPO, as patrons and exhibitors all started arriving together in the morning, vehicles were lined up along McCarthy Road and south onto Mornington Street all the way down to Delamere Avenue. Even Romeo Street was backed up at times south to Ontario Street.
While vehicles were moving slowly if at all, they were cause for concern at the Mornington school crossing near the Moffat walkway. The bumper to bumper traffic also made it difficult and unsafe for students attempting to cross at the McCarthy/Mornington intersection to get to the crossing guard further down the street.
Police were eventually called to assist direct traffic at the intersection, where vehicles were backed up through the lights, and at the school crossing, where the crossing guard on duty had earlier reported vehicles inching forward and not fully stopping.
Stratford police Chief, John Bates, says the traffic volumes experienced over the two days were “almost unprecedented” for the city, and notes officers did what they could given the circumstances.
“Quite frankly, we could have had the entire police service out there trying to direct traffic, and it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference.”
Where to put all of the vehicles also posed a problem that the city hopes to have a solution for before next year’s XPO rolls around. According to the city’s director of community services, David St. Louis, XPO organizers have requested about 3,000 parking spaces, about double what is available at the Rotary Complex.
There is any number of off-site locations throughout the city that could be used for event parking, while busing patrons to the venue. Possible options that have been suggested by councillors to city staff include the Festival Theatre parking lot and Lakeshore Drive, the SERC site, and part of the city owned land next to the Rotary Complex that is designated for parkland.
St. Louis says he has had some discussions with XPO organizers and notes they are somewhat concerned event patrons will not want to park elsewhere and be bused to the venue. They are also worried about the reliability of using buses, he adds.
CAO Ron Shaw has already met with senior staff once since the event to begin formulating a plan to address the vehicle challenges.
“In reality, it’s a nice problem to have too many vehicles in February,” Coun. Martin Ristma says, adding if the city shows good faith and works with event organizers to find workable solutions, there’s a chance Stratford could become the permanent home of the XPO.