By Camilla Mortensen and Henry Houston
A historic traffic jam has had vehicles on Franklin Boulevard in Eugene at a near standstill for more than three hours starting around 9:30 am, Thursday, Sept. 23, the University of Oregon’s move-in day.
The move-in day traffic has commuters late to work, students moving in hugely delayed and is affecting Lane Transit District’s bus services. LTD tells Eugene Weekly that it’s never seen traffic so jammed before. Franklin Boulevard is a major artery connecting Eugene to Springfield and an exit from Interstate 5
After traffic had been stalled for two-plus hours the UO sent out an advisory to media outlets, asking them to tell the public to avoid Franklin Boulevard and surrounding campus streets. The UO says it’s processing about 2,700 students and their family members, the biggest move-in day ever.
Previous to today, and similar to years past, the university had only notified the community through road signs a few days before. LTD spokesperson Pat Walsh says the transit agency did not receive an advisory.
Walsh says that LTD will be talking to the UO and other community partners so traffic is planned better in the future. “We’ve never seen it like this,” he says, adding that the head of operations was stuck in the traffic, too. Walsh urges LTD riders to visit LTD.Org to find alternative bus routes.
Forty minutes before the UO sent an email advisory to the public, it tweeted an apology to the students and families affected but did not mention the commuters and neighbors affected by the hours-long jam.
People on Twitter replied, asking what the UO was going to do to rectify the situation and asking why law enforcement wasn’t directing traffic as it does for Duck football game days. The UO says in a press release that UOPD is assisting with traffic management along Franklin Boulevard and at the entrance of Riverfront Parkway.
EW saw no signs of any traffic management from I-5 to the university’s Matthew Knight Arena from 10 am until past noon. Several frustrated drivers were seen jumping the median on Franklin and making illegal U-turns to get out of traffic.
We apologize for the traffic congestion and delays students and families are experiencing for move-in day. Check-in is taking longer than normal due to COVID-19 protocols. 1/2
— University of Oregon (@uoregon) September 23, 2021
UO laid the blame on COVID protocols and largely on “students and families arriving ahead of their scheduled check-in time,” in the press release.
EW reached out to UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis, who attributes the “traffic backups” to students and families who began arriving ahead of their scheduled check-in times. “Students have received a number of communications in advance of today’s move-in and individual check-in times, intended to stagger the check-in process,” she says.
Families responding to the UO’s tweet say there were only two computers to process the almost 3,000 students moving in.
EPD and the city of Eugene did not respond to EW‘s questions about the traffic jam and public safety issues, instead deferring to the UO. Jarvis says the UO hired crowd management staff and had UOPD to assist with traffic control. “Additional assistance was added around midday to meet unanticipated traffic backups,” she adds. She says neighbors were notified that move-in week this year would be different from years past.
As of 1:30 pm maps were still showing traffic backed up, but no more information has been forthcoming from UO or EPD.
This story has been updated to include statements from the UO.