• September 24, 2023

Brevard braces for heavy traffic Sunday with SpaceX launch, boat races

Crewed launch, high-profile events could lead to heavy traffic on Brevard roadways

Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik has a prediction for what traffic will be like Sunday afternoon in Brevard.

“It will be super gnarly, and quite a &$^%show!”

Call it the grand conjunction. The alignment of the planets. The perfect storm. Or any one of a dozen other cliches, but this Sunday afternoon, Brevard is going to experience chaos on local roadways.

“Get to the beach and pick a spot super early and avoid A1A as much as possible,” Malik said about traffic in his beachside city with thousands of visitors expected for multiple events through the weekend, but particularly on Sunday.


SpaceX Axiom crewed launch

Axiom-2, SpaceX’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station for Axiom Space and NASA, is “go” for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule. The launch is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. Many spectators will likely want to wait for the sonic boom about nine minutes after liftoff because SpaceX, for the first time with a crewed mission, will target a booster landing at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“We can see as many as 100,000+ people for a crewed launch,” said Peter Cranis, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “We expect this weekend to be very busy and encourage people to plan their routes and timing carefully.”

As with all crewed launches, once the excitement is over, those same spectators will get in their cars to head home, to a Brevard restaurant or some other destination clogging the east-to-westbound traffic arteries leading from the barrier island to the mainland.

But Cranis is quick to say the convergence this weekend is still likely just a fluke — even with an increased launch schedule.

“I think this is a bit unique,” said Cranis on Sunday traffic expecations. “But during crewed launches, (residents) should be prepared for larger crowds.”

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Thunder on Cocoa Beach

Add to that the thousands of residents and visitors to the Space Coast who are expected for Thunder on Cocoa Beach. Thunder on Cocoa Beach is considered one of the Space Coast’s largest tourism-related events of the year and is expected to bring in upwards of 100,000 people from out of the area.

The high-speed boat races will take place all weekend, but the offshore races happen on Sunday starting around 10 a.m. with the final race of the day scheduled between 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. The races are held from Alan Shepard Park to Coconuts on the Beach and many of those spectators will likely linger to watch the launch.

Cranis said that last year more than 36,000 people from outside of Brevard County came to the Cocoa Beach event and more than 100,000 people attended the event over four days.

“It will no doubt be a busy and exciting weekend from fast boats to faster rockets,” Cranis said.

“A lot of these people, I would venture to guess, are going to come and stay the day,” said Kerry Bartlett, executive director of Space Coast Super Boats LLC, promoter of Thunder on Cocoa Beach.

Bartlett said many of the people coming for the races would also have planned to come over for the launch.

“It may not be another 100,000 people, it may be another 50,000 people,” he said adding that parking is going to be a major issue for people who want to see the launch from the beach. “Parking on the beach is already going to be occupied by people from the boat races and if they know there’s a launch at 5:30, they aren’t going to leave that parking spot.”

Bartlett suggested that residents walk or bicycle to the beach accesses in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral to avoid traffic and parking frustrations.

See the launch without race crowds

Residents wanting to watch the launch will want to avoid State Road A1A altogether and should consider these alternatives:

  • Playalinda Beach, 1000 Playalinda Beach Road, Canaveral National Seashore
  • Max Brewer Bridge and Parrish Park, 1 A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway, Titusville
  • Space View Park, 8 Broad St., Titusville
  • Sand Point Park, 10 East Max Brewer Causeway, Titusville
  • Rotary Riverfront Park, 4141 S Washington Ave., Titusville
  • William J Manzo Memorial Park, 3335 S Washington Ave., Titusville

“Typically in launches like this, pedestrians take over the Max Brewer bridge,” said Marcia Gaedcke, development director of the Titusville Playhouse and former executive director of the Titusville Chamber of Commerce.

Titusville should provide an easier route out to Interstate 95 from U.S. 1 via Garden Street and state roads 50, 405 and 46.

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Other events that could add to traffic

There is a Space Coast Chess Foundation tournament at the Radisson at the Port this weekend. Sunday is the last day of the event, with matches at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. It will likely draw players from outside of Brevard.

According to Sean Malone, foundation vice president and secretary, the tournament will draw around 250 players plus an addition 100 or so in parents, organizers, tournament directors, etc.

Malone cautioned that some of those final matches won’t end until hours after they start. “A round can last up to four hours,” Malone said. “Not everyone will be finished with their game at the same time.” Players from the tournament will be trickling out of the Radisson through the afternoon and evening.

On the mainland, the 2 p.m. matinee and final performance of Cocoa Village Playhouse‘s production of “Mary Poppins” will be getting out. Adding another nearly 500 people trying to navigate heavy traffic on U.S. 1 and State Road 520 in Cocoa Village.

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Likewise, the Titusville Playhouse’s 2 p.m. matinee of “Sunday in the Park with George” will let out between 4:30 to 5 p.m.

According to Gaedcke, the playhouse is expecting a crowd of about 250 to 300 people for the Sunday performance with many of those coming from outside of Titusville.

Gaedcke said patrons wouldn’t need to worry about parking because they would be at the show early enough to avoid the onslaught of people coming for the launch, but that traffic leaving the playhouse might be a little tricky.

Rob Landers is a veteran multimedia journalist for the USA Today Network of Florida. Contact Landers at 321-242-3627 or [email protected]. Instagram: @ByRobLanders Youtube: @florida_today

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