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National Politics

Q&A: Some RNC security plans still not settled

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:59 PM

Road detours are to be expected

Q: I take the (Selmon Expressway) from Brandon to the Tampa General Hospital exit every morning (Monday-Friday). If the Crosstown is closed, will the government put up temporary detour route signs identifying how to get to the hospital?

Geri, Valrico

A: Many people emailed us with a similar question.

Because of its location at the edge of the Tampa Convention Center, which will be filled with journalists and political folks during the conventions, the Crosstown seems likely to sit within whatever security perimeter the Secret Service establishes around the convention venues.

As a result, there's a strong possibility that part of the road will be closed during all or part of the Aug. 27-30 convention. We're still a month or more away from knowing where that security perimeter will go and what it will effect.

City officials say once they know that, they'll be able to take their own measures in signage and making sure traffic flows smoothly during the convention.

Security perimeter still to be announced

Q: Any word on whether a local can walk to our common hangouts at Channelside and along the Riverwalk such as the Columbia Cafe and the Pavilion?

Kyle, Tampa

A: The location of the Secret Service's security perimeter fence remains under wraps for now, but it seems reasonable that it will include the section of the Riverwalk running alongside the convention venues.

The fence will allow limited access for convention delegates, journalists and other people with a reason to be inside the area. It won't be open to pass-through traffic.

That means the Sail Pavilion, which sits next to the convention center, will be off-limits to non-convention types.

The Columbia Café is less certain, however.

If the fence takes in the Tampa Bay History Center, the café will be off limits. If it stops short, the café may be open. Either way, Fox News has signed a lease with the center to use the history center as a base for its RNC programming.

Given that the Secret Service perimeter stretched 40 feet beyond the walls of the St. Paul convention site during the 2008 RNC, there's a good chance the café will remain open.

Only the Secret Service knows how that will play out at the moment; it could release its plans to the public by mid-July.

It's tough to plan for expected protesters

What will be the convention hours? Many of us live and work downtown and have no choice to avoid the area. How will traffic be disrupted in the event zone? Will there be a police checkpoint to enter the event zone further disrupting traffic? How about protesters lining the streets, and causing traffic problems?

Linda, Tampa

A: Let's take these questions one at a time.

The convention events get under way in the late afternoon, somewhere around 4 p.m. most days and will go into the night, according to the Committee on Arrangements.

Traffic disruptions in the event zone could take a lot of different shapes. You should expect to see hundreds of chartered buses heading into downtown in the mid-afternoon as delegates make their way to the convention venue from their far-flung hotels.

Those buses might make the evening rush hour complicated as they roll through busy junctions such as Interstate 275 and Ashley Drive.

Tampa Police won't be running checkpoints at the edges of the event zone, which covers all of downtown and likely would prove a logistical nightmare to monitor. Police will concentrate their attention on crowds filling the city's parks and sidewalks. The Secret Service will have checkpoints, but only to access the convention venues.

Protesters remain the big unknown during the RNC. They'll be using downtown parks for events that will be open to the public. They get access to a parade route and public viewing areas near the convention site. But they'll also be free to gather on sidewalks as long as they don't obstruct traffic or break city rules about placing objects on the ground.

In the end, you won't face a police challenge coming and going from downtown. Your best option for getting around downtown may be to avoid high-profile roads like Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard and rely instead on less-traveled roads going the same direction — Cass Street as an alternative to Kennedy, for example, or Morgan Street in place of Ashley.


Kevin Wiatrowski

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