CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Joe Marusak//The Charlotte Observer) - After a Black Friday traffic meltdown with four-hour delays, police urge Christmas shoppers to find another way into Concord Mills mall besides the main entrance off Interstate 85.
Traffic was flowing smoothly outside the mall early Saturday, but peak shopping was still hours away, a police dispatcher told The Charlotte Observer. And the Black Friday meltdown could be just the start of backups throughout the season, police warned.
Congestion grew so bad Friday evening that police blocked the three entrances into Concord Mills from Concord Mills Boulevard.
“CPD is taking control of the intersections to free up stagnate travel lanes,” police tweeted at 7:16 p.m. “Expect this to continue for 45 minutes. The mall is still open, but expect heavy delays to enter.”
At 8 p.m., police tweeted that Concord’s transportation department was “actively monitoring traffic signals around @ConcordMillsNC mall & making adjustments as best they can. Traffic volume has exceeded blvd & parking lot capacity. Be patient as we try to get traffic moving again.”
To which one disgruntled driver replied: “its been 4 hours and I’ve moved 500 feet.”
Another woman replied that her husband left his car an hour earlier and walked to a Walmart so she could pick him up.
A man, meanwhile, posted that shoppers should have known better.
“Shouldn’t have gone to the most popular place in the city then,” the man posted. “You knew it would be a nightmare.”
Police followed up their 8 p.m. tweet with one at 8:05 p.m. warning drivers to steer clear of the area.
“@ConcordMillsNC and surrounding shopping areas are private property and @ConcordNCPolice is not able to shut down access to these areas or manage the number of patrons visiting their businesses,” police tweeted. “Please avoid the area until we can get traffic cleared out.”
Finally, at 9:52 p.m., police tweeted that “officers have returned the control of vehicle traffic back to the traffic signals. All entrances are open with heavy traffic in the area.”
Such traffic snarls could continue throughout the season, police warned earlier in the week.
“Holiday shopping season is almost here,” police tweeted on Wednesday. “This also means traffic congestion & delays near shopping centers.”
Concord Mills mall has been a popular destination for years. Visit NC once named the mall North Carolina’s most popular tourist destination.
In their tweet Wednesday, police said the mall has four entrances and exits, “so avoid the busiest one near I-85 if you can.
“Understand traffic volume exceeds roadway capacity at peak times,” police tweeted. “Take alternate routes to reduce congestion near the malls.”