The city of La Quinta is backpedaling after thousands of local drivers experienced hours of backed-up traffic due to the first-ever Ironman in the valley. The city is addressing complaints from recovering businesses and residents wondering why there wasn’t more communication.
“They just kept going left and then right, left and then right,” Virginia Miranda, a hair stylist at ZoomPSalon in La Quinta, said.
Her salon wasn’t open Sunday during the race but she had to swing by to pick something up and on her way out, she got caught in the heavy traffic.
“People were trying to push each other out of the way,” Miranda said. “Everybody was in the same traffic we were in. Then you have all these seniors, this is a senior place, they were so confused. Then you get somebody that’s younger trying to run you over, it was a mess.”
What she thought would be fifteen minutes, turned into two hours. Luckily, her business didn’t take a hit but others, weren’t so lucky.
Restaurants, shops, and clothing stores located on Washington street and Highway 111 were a ghost town on Sunday, Miranda said. Nails World had clients walking miles to make their appointments.
“Some other people that we talked to, they were diverted at Salton Sea to come all the way back,” Kathi Black, a La Quinta resident, said. “The closest they could get to their house, which they couldn’t even get home, was to Stuft pizza.”
“On behalf of the city, we apologize for impacts to our residents, our businesses, and community members who were affected by the traffic yesterday,” Chris Escobedo, La Quinta’s Community Resources Director, said.
The city warned the public through press releases, publications and other outreach before the event but agreed they could have done more.
“We realize that people may not always get those,” Escobedo said. “Going forward, it’s always more communication, the better.”
The future of the event is now under review.
“Right now, we’ve heard loud and clear from residents so we’re in the process of responding to residents as well as collecting that information and that’s all part of what we’re going to be reviewing going forward,” Escobedo said.
La Quinta City Manager said in a statement to the La Quinta Community on Monday:
“The City sincerely regrets the impact the IRONMAN event had on our residents and businesses. When undertaking this event, the City felt it would bring both excitement and pride to our beautiful community. While it did garner world-wide recognition and was a safe event, traffic was brutally impacted. We most sincerely apologize to each and every one of you for the inconvenience, personal frustration and issues it caused.
With this being a first-year event, we expected there would be problems and Sunday evening we started evaluating what went wrong so that we may learn from this experience. City staff worked with IRONMAN, the Cities of Indian Wells, Indio and Palm Desert, the County of Riverside Emergency Management, the California Highway Patrol, the Riverside County Sheriff, the County Fire Department, American Medical Response (Ambulance), and the La Quinta Police Department to create a traffic plan that would minimize traffic impacts while accommodating a safe event.
The event was announced in January 2018 and then promoted through websites, social media, print publications and postcards to each La Quinta household. The plan was designed to facilitate emergency vehicle access and resident circulation, and to not trap or block residents and businesses from going about their day. We are fully aware of the impacts that all experienced and City staff was monitoring the situation and making adjustments throughout the event.
Again, the City of La Quinta extends its apologies to all residents and businesses for yesterday’s traffic congestion. We hope that our community understands that we would never put our resident’s needs last in order to hold an event. We respectfully appreciate the comments and feedback we are receiving and will take each suggestion seriously.”