Traffic and tourism increases for graduation weekend

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COLUMBIA - Heavy traffic is filling downtown Columbia as nearly 5,500 students receive degrees this weekend.

In preparation for the graduation ceremonies, the University of Missouri Police Department assesses the graduation class size, venue locations, and commencement times. MUPD public informations officer Brian Weimer said the staff then places officers at specific locations on campus.

"We have officers that are assigned to assist with graduation to make sure everything goes safe and smooth, but also help with traffic direction," Weimer said.

Weimer said those attending graduation ceremonies should allow for enough time to get to and from the graduation venue.

"While traffic can be down for your graduation, there can be another graduation that's just getting out, so we got to work with the two of them," Weimer said.

The MU campus will also be busy as students move out of residential halls.

"If you can, avoid the area just to help us with traffic congestion and it would also make your life smoother," Weimer said.

Anne Kaiser came from Washington D.C. to see her daughter graduate from the College of Veterinarian Medicine. She said she did not have a bad experience with on campus traffic. 

She said she was happy to learn there were fewer events Friday than Saturday.

"We're getting out of town tomorrow morning before the big things happen," Kaiser said.

Megan McConachie, spokesperson for the Columbia Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said the graduation weekend is a boost for Columbia's economy. 

"There's definitely a big influx of people who will be in town this weekend for Mizzou graduation ceremonies," McConachie said. "That has a big impact on tourism because they stay in our hotels, they eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores."

She said hotels are about 90 to 95 percent booked for the graduation weekend.