Take your typical Monday morning rush hour in north-central Brevard County, with school buses and workplace commuters backing up at busy intersections.
Add roughly 40,000 people boarding and disembarking five large cruise ships that are scheduled to leave Port Canaveral on Monday.
Then throw in a teeming throng of 100,000 to 500,000 spectators, most attempting to maneuver as close as possible to the beach and Indian River Lagoon to watch NASA’s Artemis I historic moon launch soar skyward. It’s the first planned uncrewed test flight in the Artemis program.
“Think safety first. Watch out for pedestrians, because a lot of people will be crossing the roads on foot. And think delays,” Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said.
“If you’re going to be stuck in traffic for two or three hours, you’re going to want to have water. You’re going to want to have some food with you. So think about what you need to be prepared, in case you get stuck in a long line of traffic and you’re not moving,” Walker said.
“And it’s August. It’s going to be hot,” he said.
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When does Artemis I launch?
The Artemis I two-hour launch window opens at 8:33 a.m. Monday. The 322-foot Space Launch System with uncrewed Orion capsule is slated to make its debut launch from pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center and embark on a 42-day mission.
Walker said tourism and space-related officials estimate anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 visitors may enter the county for the launch. Officials will activate the Brevard County Emergency Operations Center in Rockledge at 4 a.m. That’s 2½ hours earlier than the typical two-hour activation preceding a rocket launch.
“We anticipate that you’re going to start seeing an unusual number of cars on the road starting at 2 o’clock,” Walker said of Monday morning.
“There’s going to be gridlock in some areas. There’s going to be full parking lots. There’s going to be a lot of people out on the beach, especially from the central part to the northern part of the county,” he said.
“So just be prepared for delays — and leave early. The earlier you can leave, the better,” he said.
When to expect traffic delays from Artemis I launch
The heaviest traffic congestion is expected between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization reported. The agency is sharing key post-launch traffic tips for this “epic event”:
- In Cocoa Beach, no left turns will be allowed from northbound State Road A1A to westbound State Road 520.
- In Titusville, all lanes on the A. Max Brewer Bridge will close immediately after launch for approximately one hour, allowing for heavy pedestrian traffic.
After the launch, police will direct Titusville motorists near the bridge to head north on Harrison Street or west on Garden Street. All spectators north of Harrison Street will be directed north to State Road 46.
After a Thursday morning meeting with law enforcement officials, FDOT announced that U-turns will be prohibited on State Road 528 and George King Boulevard at Port Canaveral, said spokesperson David Parks.
Brevard Public Schools communications officials at the EOC will relay traffic updates to parents as the morning progresses, said Russell Bruhn, district spokesperson.
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BPS will modify bus routes as necessary and issue districtwide notifications to parents via email, Bus Bulletin notifications and updates posted on the district’s Facebook page.
The Cocoa Beach Police Department will monitor traffic signals and traffic flow within the city.
“Residents should plan accordingly and stay off the roadways if possible to avoid being stuck in this congestion,” Cocoa Beach City Hall officials posted on Facebook last week.
Port Canaveral is preparing for an influx of launch spectators to Jetty Park for Monday’s scheduled launch — plus a Lockheed Martin private launch viewing party on the lawn of Exploration Tower that could draw 3,000 people.
Cruise ships docking during Artemis I launch
The launch also is scheduled on a day when five large cruise ships will be in port — the Carnival Freedom and Liberty, the Disney Wish, and the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas.
There will be a total of about 40,000 people boarding or getting off those ships that day, according to Peter Bergeron, the port’s senior director of public safety and security.
Bergeron also expects heavy cargo-related truck traffic that day at the port.
“To do that, it’s going to take an all-hands effort on the part of our cruise partners and the entire Canaveral Port Authority staff,” Bergeron said.
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said “we’ve worked with state and local law enforcement agencies, and are coordinating with our cruise partners to ensure our focus remains on safety and security for all port users. Bottom line — this launch day will be very busy with a much-higher volume of traffic on the roads in and around Port Canaveral. Best advice to anyone planning to be at Port Canaveral that day, please allow extra time.”
Jetty Park will open at 5 a.m. on launch day, and will close to newcomers when its capacity is reached. Parking is limited to electronic passholders. Parking passes must be purchased in advance. No cash or credit card transactions are allowed at the entrance booth. Walk-ins or bicyclists will be allowed to enter the park until capacity is reached.
Parking at the port’s Cove area will be only for patrons and employees of Cove-area businesses. The lots will close when maximum vehicle capacity is reached.
Parking at cruise parking garages and surface lots will be only for cruise passengers.
The port’s Freddie Patrick Boat Ramps and Rodney S. Ketcham Park Boat Ramps vehicle and trailer parking will be open and available to boaters on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. Boat ramp parking lots are exclusively for boater vehicles and trailers using boat ramps.
There will be no parking or launch viewing along State Road 401, George King Boulevard, other port roadways or on the State Road 528 median.
The State Road 401 bridge will not open for vessel transits from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Monday.