Austin F1 race to be hampered by gridlock
This November fans will come, they will sit in gridlock traffic caused by inadequate roads, and they will never return. That is what is going to happen with the USGP near Austin, Texas. So why is everyone wasting their money on an event doomed to fail?
With Austin's inaugural Formula One race back on the schedule for this fall, Travis County and Circuit of the Americas have resumed negotiations over how to split the $5 million to $6 million cost of repairing and expanding about a mile of Elroy Road, a bumpy two-lane county road that leads to one of the track site's two entrances.
Both sides expect to work out a cost-sharing deal before long, but they say the project won't be complete before the first race takes place Nov. 18.
With that and other traffic challenges in mind, F1 attorney Richard Suttle said race officials have two consultants working on a "highly choreographed" plan to efficiently move the 120,000 people expected to attend the race southeast of Austin.
"I don't think it's possible for them and us to get everything worked out and get the (road improvements) designed, permitted and built by the time they have their first race," said Steve Manilla , Travis County's transportation and natural resources director.
Perhaps, Manilla said, the F1 group "could come in here with guns blazing to pay a premium price to get it done quicker, but I don't see that happening."
Travis County, even before the possibility of F1 racing in Central Texas emerged two years ago, had intended to spend about $5.5 million rehabilitating more than three miles of Elroy Road east of Texas 130. But the prospect of heavy traffic on the road — the track's north entrance will be about a mile east of where Elroy crosses McAngus Road — changed that plan.
The track's other entrance will be on FM 812 to the south — both FM 812 and Elroy have direct access to the nearby Texas 130 tollway — and that two-lane highway will be expanded to four lanes by re-striping the existing 44 feet of road, transforming its broad shoulders into traffic lanes.
Both sides now agree that Elroy Road should be expanded to four lanes in the mile long stretch between McAngus and the track entrance — Elroy is already four lanes west of McAngus to Texas 130 — and that a low, two-lane bridge over Dry Creek needs to be replaced with a higher, four-lane bridge.
The two lanes of Elroy, which are rippled because of the unstable clay soils underneath the road, also would be rebuilt and resurfaced.
The county will move forward with the pavement repair on the rest of Elroy Road east and south of the track's north entrance, Manilla said, a project likely to commence later this year. And he said the county likewise will rebuild the two lanes of McAngus between Texas 130 and Elroy.
Race organizers agree — begrudgingly, according to Suttle — that the cost of the repair and widening of Elroy between McAngus and the track entrance should be split. The two sides diverge, however, on how much each side should pay.
The county, arguing that repairing two lanes is inherently less expensive than building two more lanes from scratch and that the new lanes will be on right of way purchased by the county decades ago, wants Circuit of the Americas to pay more than half.
"They've told us, no more site permits until we come to shore on this deal," Suttle said. "I think we're going to get there." The Statesman