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Austin F1 team pitches plan to trim exit time significantly
Formula One race organizers say they have a plan to drastically reduce the estimated time for moving traffic in and out of the proposed track site east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, but Travis County planners contend that doing so will require more than $6 million in road improvements that F1 promoters must pay if they want the county to sign off on the project.

Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the issue at today's meeting. It is not expected to affect county action on a requested grading permit for the site, which F1 hopes to obtain by the end of the year.

A plan that promoters submitted to the county earlier this month claims that the F1 facility could be emptied of all 120,000 spectators expected on Sunday, the race's busiest day, in 3.25 hours by managing traffic flow with "an aggressively controlled special event management plan." That would include contra-flow lanes (temporarily using all or most lanes on two-way roads to move traffic in a single direction), numerous shuttle services, and multiple entry and exit points into the track complex.

The calculation also assumes that 3,000 fans will arrive by bicycle and 500 via helicopter. And it predicts that another 20,000 race attendees will be camping on the track complex.

Although some details of the plan remain unclear — bicycle routes are not firmly identified, for example — the figure represents a dramatic improvement over the county's worst-case scenario estimate of 12 hours to empty the complex. That number, released in September, assumed only two entrances to the track, with no traffic management.

The three-plus-hour figure would be high for many attendees, according to the plan written by Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. Two-thirds of the fans could be on their way home in about two hours — more if people choose to stay for after-race events that would string out peak traffic, the analysis showed.

County planners said they agreed with most of the calculations in the analysis, according to a Dec. 8 memo to commissioners, with one expensive exception: the widening of Elroy Road, a two-lane county road that runs from McAngus Road to the north side of the track site.

According to the government traffic planners, Elroy would need two additional lanes: one exclusively for shuttle traffic and another for emergency vehicles. The document says the project would also require widening the existing two-lane bridge that spans Dry Creek.

Estimated total cost of the improvements: $6 million, which "should be borne by the developer," the planners' memo says.

"Our (traffic impact analysis) shows it works without" the widening, said Richard Suttle, a spokesman for Formula One's local promoters. "But we're going to have further discussions. We're going to continue to work with them about what needs to be done."

Even if both sides agree Elroy Road needs to be widened, Suttle said, "there's a lot of different ways to finance roads."

Joe Gieselman, Travis County's executive manager of Transportation and Natural Resources, could not be reached for comment. The Statesman

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