TAMPA — Though rush hour into downtown Tampa on Tuesday morning was a mess because of a motivational seminar at the St. Pete Times Forum, afternoon traffic isn't expected to be as bad.
An estimated 18,000 people attended the one-day Get Motivated seminar, which included presentations from Colin Powell, Tony Dungy, Rudy Giuliani and others. Doors opened at 6:45 a.m. for the 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. event.
Mike Scanlon, a Tampa traffic design engineer, said that many people will likely leave the event early, and afternoon rush hour won't be as much of a headache.
The biggest backups could be in the parking lots and garages instead of on the roads, Scanlon added.
It'll be worse than a normal day's rush hour, but certainly not like the morning.
Interstate 275 was backed up at every exit into downtown, especially N Tampa and Ashley streets. Tampa-bound traffic was backed up all the way over the Howard Frankland Bridge into Pinellas County.
The city advised motorists westbound on Interstate 4 to take the Ybor City exit because downtown exits were backed up.
Traffic cops were stationed at nearly every corner to direct pedestrians and motorists. A police helicopter flew overhead with city traffic engineers onboard monitoring the snarls below.
"We've got traffic everywhere," Scanlon said early Tuesday. "It makes the job more interesting, that's for sure."
Joe Rowa, 38, and Jim Maslaniak, 63, were waiting outside the forum before 8 a.m. They said they snagged tickets, worth $225 at the door, early for just $5.
Maslaniak, who recently started his own exporting company after being laid off from a similar firm based in Asia, said he mainly came to hear Powell.
"My wife heard Colin Powell, and she was so inspired by him," Maslaniak said.
Rowa, who has owned a local window-tinting business since he was 16, said the key to running a strong enterprise is learning from others.
"If you want to be successful, you surround yourself with successful people to hear what they have to say," he said.
People coming for their regular jobs downtown were encouraged to arrive before 6:30 a.m. to avoid traffic. Not everyone got the message.
Anna Mayer, 60, rolled down her window as she finally exited the interstate at Tampa Street and stopped at the Tyler Street red light. "What's going on?" she asked.
When told about the seminar, Mayer sighed. "If I would've known that, I would have stayed home."
Times staff writer Katie Sanders contributed to this report.
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