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So far, conventions unfazed by I-85 shutdown

The collapse of a section of I-85 following a Thursday fire may keep some commuters at home. But it doesn’t appear to be stopping travelers who come to the city for Atlanta’s many conventions.

“We’ve been pretty proactive” about contacting convention-goers, said Heather Kirksey, spokesperson for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “People can get in town safely and move around effectively without disrupting their meeting.”

Organizers of several conventions scheduled in coming weeks said the road collapse will make it more difficult to get to venues — particularly for out-of-towners driving in — but they don’t expect anyone to skip out on their plans.

One of the biggest effects will be on ferrying speakers to and from the airport, said Erin DeSimone, a spokesperson for JordanCon, the sci-fi/fantasy literature convention that expects to bring 600 people to the Perimeter area April 21. She suspects most won’t choose to ride MARTA (though the convention hotel is MARTA-accessible).

DeSimone hopes the schedule has enough buffer time between when speakers land and when they’re expected to present. She expects that she and other organizers may have to miss panels in order to give enough leeway for the expected bad traffic.

Edward deGruy, chair of the LGBT-sci-fi convention Outlanta, said he thinks people will have their routines in place by the time he brings about 250 people to town the second weekend of May.

About half the attendees are traveling from outside the metro area, he said. Enough time will have passed that the collapse won’t be top of mind for them.

“Most people think Atlanta traffic is stupid and ridiculous anyway,” he said. “It’s just another inconvenience for them.”

DeGruy said he doesn’t expect the collapse to have a long-term effect on decisions about holding conventions in Atlanta. Neither does Crystal Noll, a spokesperson for the Sherlock Holmes-themed 221B Con.

“Atlanta’s our home,” she said. “There has been discussion about how we’ll be affected, but I don’t think it will be an issue. …It’s not something that happens all the time.”

Noll said because hotel contracts are signed so far in advance, she doesn’t expect anyone to try to move scheduled conventions. And the damage should be fixed before next year’s program.

She’s telling the 700-or-so people coming to the Perimeter this weekend that they shouldn’t expect to get on the first MARTA train, and should allow more time to get to the hotel than a GPS says.

“Traffic everywhere is probably going to be worse,” she said. “You need more time for travel.”

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