When thousands of motorcyclists descend on downtown Olympia Saturday, they will take a different route, bowing to police concerns about emergency vehicle access.
The procession of motorcycles, which runs from South Sound Center in Lacey and ends at Olympia’s Marathon Park, will be routed down Pacific Avenue to State Avenue instead of via Lilly Road and Martin Way. That’s so access to Providence St. Peter Hospital and the new fire station off Lilly Road won’t be impeded, said Olympia Police Sgt. Aaron Jelcick.
“It seemed to be a route that worked well for the toy run as well as far as creating as little impact to the city and public safety for the community as possible,” he said.
Jelcick said bikers can use the new route more efficiently, which means the procession may not last as long. It has lasted about two hours.
The move follows extra scrutiny over the past couple of years over the toy run, which has tripled in size in the past 10 years. The event had about 6,800 bikers in 2002, according to the Toy Run. Last year, more than 17,000 bikers rode, according to the city.
That has strained the city’s roadways for two hours, as all those bikers run from Lacey to Marathon Park. The line of bikers use State Avenue, which bisects downtown and causes traffic and noise headaches for some residents. Others line the routes to cheer on the bikers, who raised about $230,000 for the Salvation Army last year, said Joe Sullivan, co-founder of the event.
“We’re here for the kids and that’s our mission,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he wants to be cooperative, but said it’s a shame that the merchants along Martin Way won’t benefit from the influx of bikers this year.
“I just felt that that was money in their pockets and also money for the city” in taxes, he said.
Motorists should be aware of some other changes this year. The southbound Interstate 5 exit to Pacific Avenue will be closed during the event, and northbound I-5 drivers will only be able to exit east on Pacific.
Traffic moving from Lacey to Olympia on Pacific Avenue will be diverted onto Sleater-Kinney Road. People on Sleater-Kinney won’t be able to turn westbound on Pacific.
At the other end of the route, the Fifth Avenue bridge will be closed to traffic. Traffic will be diverted onto Fourth Avenue at the roundabout.
Intercity Transit routes will run on slightly modified schedules, Jelcick said.
He advises people who want to come downtown to get there before the Toy Run starts. People who travel through downtown should take I-5 instead, he said.
“We look forward to participating in the event and making this a success for the community,” he said.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869