Atco Dragway event sparks traffic nightmare, police response

ATCO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A car show at Atco Dragway in Camden County, New Jersey quickly turned into a traffic mess on Sunday.

Racetrack officials say they were told by police they had to shut their gates due to COVID-19 restrictions. But when cars were turned away, many of them hung around.

On Sunday afternoon, several parking lots on Route 73 in West Berlin were packed with vehicles, and many of them were equipped with large speakers just down the road from Atco Dragway on Jackson Road.

A few hours into the raceway's all-day event, police shut down Jackson Road and asked people to avoid the area.

Roma's Pizza is among the businesses in the shopping center just outside the road closure.

"Next thing I knew there was about 200 people outside in my parking lot just listening to music," said owner Joe Stellato.

He says traffic jams happen sometimes when Atco has events, but this is the biggest he's seen. He says he even helped to direct traffic but didn't mind the music and the extra business.

"I actually enjoyed listening to it. Do I recommend it all the time? Absolutely not. It was a little crazy," said Stellato.

Not all businesses fared as well.

Victory Bar and Grill across the street closed around mid-day in the midst of the congestion.

A shuttered gas station on Rt. 73 was also full of vehicles.

Atco Dragway owner Len Capone says police told him to shut his gates with a long line of cars waiting to get in.

"At 10:30 they said we were over capacity. I don't know if it was the prosecutor's office or the state trooper helicopter flying above," said Capone.

Capone says the event was under capacity and says he planned to stay at or below the 30% capacity limits for large outdoor venues set by the state of New Jersey.

Action News spoke to several drivers who waited for two hours before being turned away. Jonathan Lopez of Newark, Delaware did get in.

"It didn't feel too crowded only because it was such a big dragway. They had cars all the way from the beginning of the quarter line all the way to the end. So it was pretty spread out," said Lopez.

Dozens of officers responded to help control traffic, including New Jersey State Police.

Waterford police say all area roads are open again. So far no other details have been released by police.
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