Parking on Highway 6 during football games will no longer be allowed, but the university and the city of Oxford are working together to create a more efficient parking situation for home games.
Representatives from the university, city, county and state met yesterday morning to discuss the estimated 2,000 cars parked during football games along the Highway 6 bypass.
The meeting was held in response to the death of Ole Miss graduate student Amie Ewing who was hit Saturday night while walking across the west-bound lane.
“It was obvious to everyone (at the meeting) that parking on the 6 bypass has become an untenable situation. It took us about 30 seconds to determine that,” Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth said.
According to Oxford Police Chief Steve Bramlett, the state and the city of Oxford have “total jurisdiction” over the Highway 6 bypass.
“If they determine that you can’t park there, then you can’t,” he said. “That’s what was determined this morning.”
Bramlett said that parking there has always been allowed because the police were “just trying to work with people who were coming to the ball games.”
“Now we have a tragedy that has occurred. We never did endorse (parking along Highway 6), but we’re definitely going to put a stop to it,” Bramlett said.
OPD, as well as officers from the Mississippi Department of Transportation will be enforcing the new rule. Cones will be set up and police cars will be stationed to prevent people from parking along the highway.
“It will be a zero tolerance, ticket and tow situation,” Bramlett said. “If someone decides to pull their car over and park it (along Highway 6), it won’t be there when they get back.”
The university is working with the city of Oxford to designate more legal parking.
“This past Saturday, there were actually parking places available elsewhere on campus and in the city,” Howorth said. “A lot of people don’t know their way in or out and around Oxford and campus. We’re going to do our best to direct people to designated parking lots with clear signs and advertising traffic routes.”
According to Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the Chancellor, there will be organized parking around the intramural fields and the adjacent street, as well as in the old Wal-Mart parking lot now owned by the University.
There will also be parking available at the new physical plant on Hathorn Road, the OPD parking lots, at the City Park Commission soccer fields, and at Oxford Elementary, Oxford Middle and Oxford High Schools.
Mullins said that the University has identified about 800 available parking places on campus and that shuttles will run continuously around campus.
Howorth said the city is continuously working to identify additional parking as well.
“The city is either going to find a private contractor or lease vans and buses ourselves to get people from some of these more remote places,” he said. “If we identify other places that aren’t within reasonable walking distance, then the city will operate shuttles to get people from those parking places as well.”
However, Howorth said that there are a lot of problems with a shuttle system.
“Part of reason we haven’t been able to operate shuttles is that they can’t get into campus because of the traffic. And if they do get in, they can’t get out,” he said.
Howorth said there was also a number of available parking lots on Jackson Avenue that can be used. He said it’s just a matter of locating and identifying them.
Mullins said that he wants the public to be patient and understand the situation.
“We have huge, increasing numbers of people coming to these games and we’re not creating any more land to accommodate them,” he said. “We’re asking people to be patient.”
Howorth is also looking for patience from the public.
“The main thing is that the public has to understand that having 60,000 cars...in Oxford and the university all at the same time is an extraordinary circumstance. If people will just be patient and understand that they don’t have to leave as soon as the game is over because more than likely they’ll sit in their car in traffic for an hour. They’ve got to allow more time to get to and from the game. It is just part of the event,” he said.