Two Cities Marathon alters route for traffic
Some parishioners wanted the Rev. Ronald Kreiensieck to cancel services this Sunday to avoid a traffic jam: Thousands of marathon runners will flood Tollhouse Avenue that morning for the Two Cities Marathon & Half Marathon.
But Kreiensieck answers to a higher power than Philippides, the first-ever marathon runner who was sent to seek Sparta’s help after Persians invaded ancient Athens.
He was willing to compromise, however: Lord of Life Lutheran Church on Tollhouse in Clovis will cancel its 8:30 a.m. service and Sunday school and will move its 11 a.m. service to 11:30 – when race officials expect the roads to be free of runners again.
Race organizers, still smarting from complaints last year over closed roads and blocked access to neighborhoods, have changed the course and reached out to churches, businesses and residents.
This year, the plan is to simplify traffic routes for motorists, said Randy Schrey, an engineering technician with the city of Fresno.
“Last year, we made it too complicated,” requiring drivers to make elaborate detours, he said. “People were driving in circles.”
After last year’s event, race officials met with police and traffic engineers to discuss course changes for runners that also would aid motorists. Probably the most important change will allow Willow Avenue to stay open, said Sherrie Flynn, the marathon’s course and traffic director.
Runners also will not be going through a subdivision along Copper Avenue that generated complaints last year.
“I do believe we have cleared up a lot of the issues from last year,” she said. “We started meeting in February and looked at how to modify the course to make it less of an impact on the community.”
Another important change is at the end of the race. A trail area near Audubon and Friant roads that kept residents landlocked for several hours is not part of the course, she said.
Race organizers placed door hangers out for residents so they will know how they will be affected. There also are 18 electronic message boards advising motorists of road closures and alternate routes.
“It’s never going to be perfect, but we just tried our best to minimize the impact to the community,” she said.
Cities also have taken steps to keep the community as fully informed as possible about Sunday’s races.
This week Shawn Miller, Clovis business development manager, has been talking with businesses and churches most affected by the races. The city contacted affected businesses a month ago, but after following up city officials realized that not everyone had been reached.
“We are trying to make this as easy as possible in case something fell through the cracks,” Miller said.
Meanwhile, churches have made a concerted effort to let congregants know about how Sunday’s races will affect area roadways.
Holy Spirit Catholic Church parishioners had a difficult time getting to services last year at the church, which is at Friant Road and Champlain Drive.
In recent weeks, the church has announced road closures during services, e-mailed parishioners, and placed road information in the newsletter and on the Web site, said Sharon Tellifson, the church’s business manager.
“Last year was pretty hectic, it upset a lot of people,” she said. “We are hoping it will be better this year.”
By 8:30 a.m., eastbound Shepherd should be open, which will allow most churches to greet congregants for services at normal times.
Rev. Bob Willis at North Park Community Church on Shepherd Avenue is optimistic that runners and churchgoers won’t encounter many problems Sunday.
“I think we got the information much sooner and there was more detailed information about what roads would be closed and what direction,” said Willis, whose church will serve runners with an aid station. “It’s always going to be a little inconvenient, but it’s once a year and it’s good for the community.”
Schrey said motorists may still have to drive a few minutes out of their way to get to their destination.
“There are always going to be complaints,” he said. “But we have to get better at doing this each time because this race is going to grow.”
By Marc Benjamin / The Fresno Bee