Rushing Franklin Street after a Tar Heel victory is a time-honored tradition, but with thousands of people, illegal bonfires burning and drinks flowing, it can also be dangerous.
The Town of Chapel Hill stressed safety in any celebrations during or after the game.
If the Tar Heels win the NCAA National Championship Monday night, public safety departments from Chapel Hill, the university and from other areas, will shut down Franklin Street to regular traffic, the town announced in a news release Monday. There will be 250 officers working Monday, in addition to fire, EMS, transit and public works crews.
Police will conduct alcohol checkpoints will be in place, the town said.
“We’re extremely lucky that no one was injured from the few bonfires that were set Saturday night,” said Chris Blue, Chapel Hill police chief and executive director for community safety. “We’d hate for a night of joy and celebration to be ruined because of injury. We are all pulling for a national title in Chapel Hill, and when that happens, we want everyone to be able to return home safely.”
Bonfires are prohibited, the town repeated. Town officials will limit any combustible materials from entering downtown Chapel Hill Monday night. Also prohibited are: weapons, glass bottles, alcoholic beverages, paint, fireworks and explosives, animals and coolers.
The North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care has treated 79 people for burn injuries related to bonfires over the past four years, according to the town. The average length of stay in the Burn Center for those victims was eight days.
“These celebrations put a concentrated number of people in a relatively confined area,” the town said in its release. “One false step could result in a very serious injury. The best way to prevent an injury from a bonfire is to follow the town’s regulations about burning.”
For more information on Chapel Hill burning regulations, go to http://www.townofchapelhill.org/town-hall/departments-services/fire-department/fire-marshal/fire-pits.
Parking will be limited in downtown Chapel Hill. No parking will be allowed in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. Access to neighborhoods will be limited by barricades and police at the roads leading into them beginning this afternoon.
Vehicles parked on the following streets will be towed beginning at 7 p.m.:
▪ Franklin Street (from Raleigh to Mallette streets)
▪ Henderson Street (from East Franklin to East Rosemary streets)
▪ Columbia Street (from Franklin to Rosemary streets)
Vehicles that are illegally parked will be ticketed and towed, with a minimum recovery cost of $140 plus the cost of the ticket, according to the town.
▪ Southbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be only permitted to turn left or right onto Rosemary Street
▪ Westbound traffic on East Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to the intersection of East Franklin Street at Raleigh Street
▪ Eastbound traffic on West Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to Mallette Street
▪ Northbound traffic on South Columbia Street will only be permitted to turn right or left onto Cameron Avenue
If the Tar Heels win, the town’s decision to close downtown streets to vehicles will be based on crowd size and behavior. If streets are closed, no vehicle traffic will be allowed inside the closed area.
Closures may include:
▪ Franklin Street – from Raleigh Street to Mallette Street
▪ Henderson Street – from East Franklin Street to East Rosemary Street
▪ Columbia Street – from Cameron Avenue to Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill Transit
Chapel Hill Transit will follow regular routes and schedules as long as street conditions allow safe travel, according to the town. Special-event routes, including the Tar Heel Express and Safe Ride Service, will not be added Monday.
In the event Franklin Street or other streets are closed following the NCAA National Championship basketball game, the J route will operate on a detoured route and serve the Downtown/Franklin Street area using the following stops:
▪ J route – pick up and drop off at South Colombia Street at ROTC Building. The route will be detoured along Cameron Avenue, Merritt Mill Road to/from West Franklin Street.
In the event of road closures, Chapel Hill Transit will attempt to maintain posted schedules and routes; however, customers should plan for detours and delays.
For more information about Chapel Hill Transit operations Monday, go to townofchapelhill.org/Home/Components/News/News/10950/22.
Where to watch
UNC will host a viewing party at the Dean E. Smith Center, projecting the broadcast on a large projection screen and the Smith Center video walls. For information about the viewing party and other details (parking restrictions, street closures), go to move.unc.edu/events/final-four/.