An estimated 8,000 health care practitioners and executives will attend an annual conference at Epic Systems in Verona, an influx of visitors that comes as flooding has closed roads, caused millions of dollars in property damage and killed at least one person in the Madison area.
The conference starts Monday, following a weekend in which anticipated rainfall could potentially cause even more flooding on the isthmus.
Epic, a electronic health care records company that employs about 9,000 employees on its sprawling Verona campus, hosts what it calls the Users Group Meeting each year to update clients on the company’s latest initiatives. The event has historically caused traffic slowdowns on the beltline and along Verona Road due to the increased traffic.
At a press conference on Friday, Mayor Paul Soglin said that the event will likely exacerbate traffic congestion from roadways that are closed or inaccessible due to flooding in the city.
“Traffic obviously is compromised and it’s going to be compounded as we go into next week because we’re hosting one of the biggest annual events in the city, and that is Epic’s User Group Meeting,” said Soglin. “They will be relying on buses, which will hopefully cut down on the number of vehicles both for their guests and their employees.”
An updated map of current road closures can be found on the city's website.
Epic spokesperson Meghan Roh confirmed that the company has been in communication with city officials, hotels, and others to stay on top of the situation. They also said that the company has been trying to figure out shuttle routes and alternative methods of transportation to alleviate traffic concerns.
Rob Gard, the communications director for the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that the bureau has been in communication with Epic, “specifically about road closures, and routing from the airport and the near east side.” He said that visitors for UGM should expect an extra hour getting to and from the airport, particularly those traveling through the near east side, where most current road closures are located.
Gard said the visitors bureau is still encouraging people to visit the city.
“Our message is, have fun, but be aware that there could be road closures and delays,” he said.
The influx of visitors also comes as at least two hotels on Madison’s west side — the Fairfield Inn & Suites and Courtyard Marriot West just west of the Beltline in Middleton — remain temporarily closed due to the flooding from earlier this week, according to Middleton’s Visitors Center.
Epic and others gearing up for the influx of visitors say they don’t anticipate any decline in attendance this year due to the floods.
“It’s still on, obviously,” said Gard. “They’re still coming to town.”
Epic campus itself has not sustained any significant flooding, according to Roh and City of Verona officials.
Abigail Becker assisted with reporting this story.