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HILLSVILLE — Tens of thousands of people will head to Hillsville over Labor Day weekend to experience flea market shopping heaven, creating the potential of traffic hell for others.
The Labor Day Gun Show and Flea Market will open for business Friday at 7 a.m. and wrap up Monday at 5 p.m.
While Hillsville does its best to accommodate crowds estimated at more than half a million in the past, the Virginia Department of Transportation has issued its annual statement, warning those who might not want to be ensnared in the shopping bonanza to steer clear.
“Considerable traffic delays” is VDOT’s phrase, though the opening of the new five-mile stretch of U.S. 58, also known as the Hillsville bypass, probably has provided some relief for east-west travelers.
VDOT officials advise motorists who have no desire to attend the flea market to avoid the area — or to be stuck going about one mile an hour in backed-up traffic through the most congested spots.
“Thousands of visitors are expected to converge on a one-mile section of Route 58 Business in Hillsville,” VDOT said in the news release. “As a result, sidewalks will be crowded with pedestrians and bumper-to-bumper traffic will be moving at a crawl throughout the area.”
Use extra caution, watch for police directing traffic and pay attention to electronic information boards for information on the ground, transportation officials advise.
Those who will be in the vicinity during the flea market might find the following VDOT tips helpful:
Interstate 77 at Exit 14
“Those planning to attend the Flea Market and Gun Show are encouraged to take I-77 and use exit 14 (Hillsville/Galax) onto Route 58 Business,” the news release said. “Congestion is expected on I-77 in this area and police may be directing traffic at the Exit 14 and Route 58 Business interchange to promote safe travel.” Traffic will be directed onto Route 714 (Old Galax Pike) to help alleviate congestion.
Motorists should watch for stopped vehicles in this area.
Westbound U.S. 58 Business traffic will be reduced to one lane approaching the I-77 interchange from Old Galax Pike.
U.S. 58 Bypass western interchange with U.S. 58 Business
Motorists using the Route 58 Bypass’ western interchange to exit onto Route 58 Business should use extreme caution and watch for heavy traffic congestion, according to transportation officials.
Those not attending the event and traveling westbound on the 58 bypass should use the left lane to avoid exiting vehicles. Drivers are advised not to park on the Route 58 Bypass or on the ramps onto Route 58 Business.
“No Parking” signs will be posted around the interchange.
U.S. 52 event traffic can use Route T-780 (Howlett Street) or Route T-1020 (West Grayson Street), transportation officials say.
Northbound Route 52 traffic will not be permitted to turn left onto westbound Route 58 Business.
Southbound Route 52 traffic will not be allowed to make right-on-red turns onto westbound Route 58 Business.