BRIDGEPORT – Don’t expect the old Traffic and The Cars groups to be reserved for the new amphitheater.

Still, traffic and cars are on developer Howard Saffan’s mind as the venue nears its grand summer opening.

He and the city aim to improve the experience for ticket enthusiasts entering and leaving the city center and port to attend shows by removing parking and other fees to reduce traffic jams.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t have problems,” Saffan said this week. “Our goal is to alleviate any problems we may have to the best of our ability.”

Saffan is well aware of how a night on the town in Bridgeport in the past has turned into a car stuck overnight in an idling car. Before partnering with the city in 2017 to transform the former municipal minor-league baseball stadium into an outdoor concert attraction, Saffan once ran the indoor entertainment arena next door.

When big stars – say Elton John – came to town, they drew plenty of fans who were stuck on the exit ramps of Interstate 95, then downtown towards the two surface parking lots and the garage. parking.

So two years ago, Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration hired a consultant to draft a better traffic management plan for the neighborhood. The amphitheater was originally scheduled to open that year, but construction delays and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic have pushed that back until this summer. The first publicly announced show is Blackberry Smoke on July 30.

The mayor’s office declined to comment when asked about the results of the $ 60,500 study, but Saffan detailed some of the steps taken to reduce traffic congestion.

He said the two municipal lots outside the amphitheater will be merged into one – they are currently separated by a short road that the city plans to abandon, then add entrances and resurface with 1,000. newly striped spaces.

“The most important improvement of all is to make parking free” on the grounds and in the 1,500 garage, said Saffan. Much of the saving of the previous traffic, he said, was due to the fact that “you stop at a singular door, hand them money, they give you change and now you can come in.”

“This transaction takes between a minute and two minutes as you pull up to four entry doors and load directly,” Saffan said. “Not charging for parking eliminates about 80% of the problems. “

The city council, after initially rejecting the proposal, recently voted to rent a section of the parking lot in Saffan to sublet to an advertising company to erect a billboard to promote the amphitheater. But Councilor Scott Burns, co-chair of the budget committee, confirmed that the city’s deal with Saffan in 2017 did not require Bridgeport to share a portion of the amphitheater’s parking revenue, meaning Saffan can waive these charges if they wish.

The state owns the parking lot. Saffan said the amphitheater would cover this revenue to provide free parking there.

Saffan also said signage will also be improved to help visitors exit I-95 and the Routes 8/25 connector and through downtown to the site. And some downtown streets will temporarily become one-way on event days / nights to send vehicles on a “loop” through the neighborhood rather than having long lines of cars crisscrossing.

“That’s what the consultants were saying – ‘You need a curl, guys,’” Saffan said. “It also eases the burden on the police for traffic control. “

Lauren Coakley Vincent, head of the Downtown Special Services District, said that “the idea of ​​moving traffic around downtown is a good idea.”

The I-95 separates the majority of downtown businesses from the amphitheater / arena, but these establishments – especially restaurants – have said they want to encourage event-goers to frequent them before and after.

Vincent recognized the importance of better traffic flow, “Especially if there is a night when the arena and the amphitheater both have an event. It will be a difficult experience.

“I remember when (the actors / comedians) Adam Sandler and Kevin Hart played at the arena,” Vincent recalls. “You were in your car for a very long time.”

Saffan said the amphitheater still under construction had gained some experience hosting the graduation ceremonies in the spring.

“In August we have six concerts in a row,” he said. “So the details of the police will improve. Our traffic controls will improve. And we will see where our weak points are.