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DATE News (chronologically)
09/18/10
f1
Will traffic be Austin's eventual undoing?  UPDATE #2 Twelve hours.  That’s how long it would take fans on race days to get into, and then out of, the proposed Formula One track to be built southeast of Austin, according to a quick analysis of the site plan by county planners.

Imagine, if you will, thousands of cars, trucks and RVs trying to travel to and from the Formula One racetrack on this section of Elroy Road. No plans have been announced for its upgrade.
Planners working on the race track site plan reached that estimate after a field trip to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where it takes about three hours for fans to enter and exit the track, said Joe Gieselman, manager of Travis County’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department. He added that the F1 calculation was reached by plugging in the number of anticipated attendees at the Austin event.

“It was like, Hello, that [12 hours] cannot happen,” he said. “But tell us what it will take to get” the time down to a reasonable figure.

“Mainly what’s lacking is the big picture and the context,” he said. “They’re still at the PR level — still selling F1. But now let’s talk about what we have to do to make it successful.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt also told Suttle she wanted to see a “hard number analysis” on how Formula One racing has affected other communities economically.

Suttle was also asked about who would pay for upgrades to the roads around the site. Gieselman said that as a general rule, site developers are expected to pay for necessary improvements to public roadways.

Today, Suttle told the Statesman that further discussions are needed on what infrastructure — such as adding lanes or intersection improvements, mainly work to roadways — might be needed and who will pay for it.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in the next two years,” he said, adding that Full Throttle’s engineers were in the midst of talking to planners in Silverstone, England, to learn about how that site handled traffic. More at The Statesman

09/14/10 Somewhere above 100,000 people converge on Royal-Memorial Stadium six or seven Saturdays each fall, surging into adjacent neighborhoods over several hours for tailgating and then leaving more or less en masse shortly after the clock winds down. Those who have ventured into this maelstrom know how fun that fifth quarter of football isn't.

Now imagine if there were only two ways into and out of the stadium area, both of them two-lane streets. For instance, Red River Street from the north and, say, a thinner 24th Street from the west.

Bad, really bad.

Which is almost surely the situation that gearheads will face two years from now at Austin's first Formula One race out on what is now prairie land southeast of the Austin airport. Assuming the race happens, of course. 

Yes, there is a four-lane, lightly used tollway — Texas 130 — a mile west of the track property. And two other major highways, Texas 71 and U.S. 183, are within three miles. But that last mile or two could be a killer.

Or, more to the point, a parking lot.

The roughly 900-acre site is bordered by three roads: FM 812 to the south, McAngus Road on the west and Elroy Road on the north and east. Elroy and FM 812 have exits off the tollway and connect with U.S. 183 to the west. None of them connect directly to Texas 71.

And all of them have just two lanes.

Worse yet, only FM 812, a road maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, has shoulders. McAngus and Elroy are the skinniest of county roads. Both periodically buckle according to the shifting clay soils that underlie the rolling land east of Austin. Driving them is an adventure.

Now consider this: Traffic engineers have a rule of thumb that a highway lane, with everyone going full speed, can move about 2,000 cars an hour. If you're calculating at home, that's about 4,000 cars an hour heading west and another 4,000 going east on FM 812 and Elroy. Except that the eastbounders on Elroy would just end up on FM 812, so maybe we can't count them. And no one would be going anything close to full speed.

The F1 organizers say there could be 140,000 people at the race. How many cars, pickups and RVs is that? I'm no traffic engineer, but it's got to be something well above 50,000 sets of wheels.

Joe Gieselman, Travis County's transportation director, surveying this unhappy prospect, dropped a big number on his county commissioner bosses last week: 12. As in, getting to and from the race, if nothing is done, could take 12 hours. Each way.  More at The Statesman

09/09/10 Twelve hours. That's how long it would take fans on race days to get into, and then out of, the proposed Formula One track to be built southeast of Austin, Texas according to a quick analysis of the site plan by county planners.

Planners working on the racetrack site plan reached that estimate after a field trip to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where it takes about three hours for fans to enter and exit the track, said Joe Gieselman, manager of Travis County's Transportation and Natural Resources Department.

The 12-hour figure emerged during a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, during which Richard Suttle Jr., the attorney for promoter Full Throttle Productions, was peppered with questions from commissioners. 

Gieselman said the county's delay-time estimate, as well as other pointed queries about who would pay for road improvements and how many jobs the project might create, served to highlight the county's frustration over  the paperwork submitted by Full Throttle — which is thus far so sketchy as to make planners' jobs nearly impossible, he said.

Promoters have said they intend to submit their land-use paperwork to the city and county incrementally, gaining approvals for each stage along the way. Full Throttle hopes to break ground on the facility by December and be prepared to host the first F1 race in 2012.

Last week, Full Throttle submitted the first two parts of the site plan to county and city planners: one for grading the land and the other for construction of a single road through the middle of the land.

But Gieselman said his department needs a better idea of what the whole project will look like before it starts issuing approvals.

"Mainly what's lacking is the big picture and the context," he said. "They're still at the PR level — still selling F1. But now let's talk about what we have to do to make it successful."

At Tuesday's meeting, County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt also told Suttle she wanted to see a "hard number analysis" on how Formula One racing has affected other communities economically. The Statesman
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