‘It’s a manpower intensive event’: Sheriff’s Office, other agencies work to keep traffic flowing at TPC

CHRISTINA.KELSO@STAUGUSTINE.COM St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy Lauren Ledoux directs traffic on PGA Tour Boulevard in the midst of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra on Friday, May 12, 2017.

The Players Championship, and the thousands of spectators it draws to the northern part of St. Johns County each year, requires the Sheriff’s Office to not only juggle a few resources, but to also coordinate with other agencies in order to keep traffic flowing and ensure a safe event.


None of that, though, comes at a cost to taxpayers or at cost to day-to-day patrol operations, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan told The Record on Thursday.

“TPC pays for everybody who is working up there,” he said.

While some command staff is there to ensure that protocols are followed, Mulligan said, the bulk of who works the event from the Sheriff’s Office is there off-duty. Some deputies go work a few hours when needed before or after their shifts, and some even take vacation time off to earn a few extra dollars during one of the county’s bigger tourist draws.

“It’s a manpower-intensive event,” Mulligan said, but it doesn’t pull anyone away who would otherwise be covering calls for service.

“Our road patrol is intact for each shift,” he said.

Many of the deputies who do go, including those with K-9s, go to work security within the event. Other agencies, including state and federal authorities, also send personnel to provide “threat security,” he said.

But one of the most cumbersome jobs is directing traffic.

Last year, the tournament brought in about 170,000 spectators during the week. That many, or more, are expected this year, and, Mulligan said, a good deal of coordination goes into making sure they all get in and out as easily, and safely, as possible.

“It’s a pretty large traffic management process,” he said.

Traffic in the mornings and throughout the day isn’t typically terrible, Mulligan said.

“At the end of play, however, everyone is attempting to exit at the same time,” he said.

That’s when things can get tricky. Not only do the deputies have to guide spectators away from the event, they also have to have to be sure residents who live in the area can get to where they need to go as well.

“We can’t just shutdown traffic,” he said.

Making sure that traffic doesn’t devolve into gridlock, Mulligan said, requires coordination with neighboring agencies, particularly those to the north.

While deputies are stationed at every intersection, controlling traffic lights during the busiest times, they also have to make sure that there are officers at lights north of the county line to ensure traffic doesn’t back up into St. Johns County.

“It’s a multi-county effort to keep those cars moving,” Mulligan said.


The Florida Department of Transportation encourages fans to use its Florida 511 Traveler Information System to choose the best route to The Players Championship.

Those planning to arrive early for a prime seat in the gallery should be prepared for increased traffic on the Interstate 95 corridor, I-295 Beltway and State Road A1A.

Tournament organizers recommend taking exit 32 on I-95 and proceeding east on County Road 210, which becomes Valley Ridge Boulevard. At the intersection of Valley Ridge Boulevard and Nocatee Parkway, turn right and proceed east on Nocatee Parkway, which will become Palm Valley Road, and continue to TPC Sawgrass.

Golf fans can check the interactive road map on FL511.com before leaving for real-time traffic information and incident alerts in English or Spanish. They can also view roadway cameras showing current driving conditions along their planned route.

The free Florida 511 mobile app, available on the Apple App Store or Google Play, features an interactive map showing traffic speeds and incidents on roads around the user’s location.

Additional ways to receive information from Florida 511 include calling 511 toll-free from any phone in the state and following one or more of the statewide, regional or roadway-specific Twitter feeds (#FL511), such as @FL511_Northeast, @FL511_I10 and @FL511_I95.