Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik has a prediction of what traffic will be like on Sunday afternoon in Brevard.
“It’s going to be super cool, and it’s going to be a great show and a$^%!”
Call it the great pairing. Planetary alignment. The perfect storm. Or any one of the dozens of other cliches, but on Sunday afternoon Brevard will see the local roads in shambles.
“Go to the beach, pick a nice spot early and avoid A1A as much as possible,” Malik said of traffic in his beach city where thousands of visitors can expect multiple events over the weekend, but especially on Sunday.
SpaceX Axiom crew launch
Axiom-2, SpaceX’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station for Axiom Space and NASA, is “going” for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule. Launch scheduled for 5:37 p.m. Many spectators will likely want to wait for the sonic boom about nine minutes after liftoff because SpaceX, for the first time with a crewed mission, will target a booster landing in Landing Area 1 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
“We could see up to 100,000+ people launching a crew,” said Peter Kranes, executive director of the Space Coast Tourism Bureau. “We expect this weekend to be very busy and encourage people to plan their routes and timing carefully.”
As with all crewed launches, once the excitement is over, those same spectators will climb into their cars to go home, to Brevard’s Restaurant, or some other destination that clogs the east-west traffic arteries leading from the barrier island to the mainland.
But Kranes is quick to say that this weekend’s convergence is still likely a fluke — even as the launch schedule increases.
“I think that’s a little bit unique,” Kranes said of Sunday’s traffic forecast. “But during manned launches,[residents]have to be prepared for larger crowds.”
crew launch:Everything “goes” to launch the SpaceX private astronaut mission Axiom-2
Missile launch schedule:Upcoming launches and landings in Florida
Thunder on Cocoa Beach
Add to that the thousands of Space Coast residents and visitors expected to show up at Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Thunder on Cocoa Beach is one of the largest Space Coast tourism-related events of the year and is expected to attract upwards of 100,000 people from outside the region.
High speed regattas will take place all weekend, but offshore races happen on Sundays starting around 10am with the final race of the day set between 2:30-3:30pm. Races are held from Alan Shepard Park to Coconuts on the beach and many of those spectators are likely to stay to watch the launch.
Last year, Kranes said, more than 36,000 people outside of Brevard County attended the Cocoa Beach event and more than 100,000 people attended the event over four days.
“It’s definitely going to be a weekend full of action and excitement, from speedboats to faster rockets,” Kranes said.
“A lot of these people, I would venture to guess, will come and stay all day,” said Kerry Bartlett, CEO of Space Coast Super Boats LLC, promoter of Thunder on Cocoa Beach.
Many of the people coming in for the races were also planning to come in for the races, Bartlett said.
“It may not be another 100,000 people, there may be another 50,000,” he said, adding that parking will be a major issue for people who want to see the launch from shore. “People from the regatta will actually occupy the parking lot on the beach, and if they know there’s a kickoff at 5:30, they won’t leave that parking lot.”
Bartlett suggested that residents walk or bike to the beach at Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral to avoid traffic and parking frustration.
Watch the launch without the racing crowds
Residents who wish to witness the launch will want to avoid State Road A1A altogether and should consider these alternatives:
- playalinda beach, 1000 Playalinda Beach Road, Canaveral National Seashore
- Max Brewer Bridge and Parrish Park, 1A Max Brewer Memorial Parkway, Titusville
- Space View Park, 8 Broad Street, Titusville
- sand point park, 10 East Max Brewer Rd., Titusville
- Rotary Riverfront Park, 4141 S Washington Ave., Titusville
- William J. Manzo Memorial Park, 3335 S Washington Ave., Titusville
“Normally on launches like this, the Max Brewer Bridge is taken over by pedestrians,” said Marcia Jaedek, director of development for the Titusville Playhouse and former executive director of the Titusville Chamber of Commerce.
Titusville should provide an easier exit route to Interstate 95 from US 1 via Garden Street and State Routes 50, 405, and 46.
Things to do:What’s going on this weekend? Top 5 Picks May 19-25
Audience expectations:The Cocoa Beach Powerboat Race gets a touring bonus, and gears up for a record-breaking event
Other events that can add to traffic
there Space Coast Chess Foundation The tournament is at the Radisson at the Port this weekend. Sunday is the final day of the event, with games taking place at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and likely to attract players outside of Brevard.
According to Sean Malone, institution Vice President and Secretary, the tournament will attract about 250 players plus the 100 or so in parents, organizers, tournament directors, etc.
Some of those final matches won’t end until hours after they start, Malone warned. “A tour can last up to four hours,” said Malone. “Not everyone will finish their game at the same time.” Tournament players will exit the Radisson Hotel during the afternoon and evening.
On the mainland, at 2 pm and the final performance of Cocoa Village TheatreProduction of “Mary Poppins” will end. Add nearly 500 other people trying to navigate heavy traffic on US 1 and State Route 520 in Cocoa Village.
Practically perfect:Mary Poppins flies to the Cocoa Village Theatre
Color and light:Titusville’s Sunday in the Park with George blends art, love, and legacy
Similarly, the 2 p.m. at the Titusville Playhouse on “Sunday in the Park with George” will be out between 4:30 and 5 p.m.
According to Gaedcke, the theater is expecting a crowd of about 250 to 300 people for a Sunday performance with many coming from outside Titusville.
Patrons won’t need to worry about parking because they’ll be at the fair early enough to avoid being attacked by people coming for the launch, Gaedcke said, but the traffic leaving the playroom can be a little tricky.
Rob Landers is a veteran multimedia journalist for USA Today in Florida. Call Landers at 321-242-3627 or [email protected]. Instagram: @employee Youtube: @employee
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