Editorial: This show should go on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Itís possible a major accident will occur on a nearby segment of I-85 the weekend of Aug. 27, forcing traffic to be rerouted through Salisbury. Itís also possible a tornado might hit downtown that weekend, or a leaking gas line might force a significant evacuation.
Bad things can and do happen ó often at inopportune times. However, despite the state Department of Transportationís misgivings, the show should go on.
The show in this case is a daylong music festival planned for the last weekend in August that would entail closing a one-block section of North Main (off the Square) from midnight Friday to Sunday morning. Headlined by the Sugarcreek band, the event is part of an ongoing concert series and could draw upwards of 3,000 people to the city, according to promoter Mike Miller. City Council voted Tuesday to let the event proceed after DOT officials gave it a thumbs down. DOT is worried because construction on the Yadkin River Bridge raises the risks of a traffic mishap on I-85. If a major mishap constricted or closed the lanes, traffic might be rerouted onto Main Street (U.S. 29). And no doubt about it, if such a detour becomes necessary that weekend and a portion of Main Street is closed, the result could be a major traffic snarl and additional demands on local law enforcement.
As experience has shown, traffic accidents on the Yadkin River Bridge shouldnít be taken lightly. The specter of those accidents was one of the prime arguments for the bridge replacement project. So the DOTís concern isnít unwarranted, but it is acting out of an abundance of caution. These are risks that can be managed. The concert organizer says heíll have equipment on hand to expedite the reopening of Main Street, if that becomes necessary. Police Chief Rory Collins says his department can handle the traffic situation. City officials say theyíll closely vet the fine print to make sure the city isnít exposed to undue liabilities.
It would be different if emergency service providers were raising objections to the downtown detour or if nearby businesses were worried about the potential for jammed highways. Instead, theyíve supported a festival that will draw visitors to the city and put more traffic in local restaurants and shops, as well as on the roads. Itís a simpler issue for the DOT, which has nothing to gain from a successful festival and wants no part of any liability. City officials need to weigh potential risks, however slight, against benefits and rewards. They should exercise due diligence and plan accordingly, not pull the plug.