F1 developers’ offer to help pay for Austin road work

Travis County commissioners could vote today on an agreement for racetrack developers to pay $375,000 of an estimated $1.5 million face-lift for a five-mile stretch of FM 812, which will be the main entrance to the $400 million venue southeast of Austin.

The improvements would allow FM 812 , now configured for two lanes, to handle four lanes of traffic on race days. The pavement repair, sealing and topping is scheduled to begin in August and be completed by year's end.

The road borders the southern edge of the Circuit of the Americas, which will be home to Formula One auto races .

No county money would be spent for the Texas Department of Transportation project. The county would serve as a conduit for the developers' money to be passed on to the state.

The section of FM 812 slated for repair stretches east from San Jose Avenue near FM 973 to the Bastrop County line.

"It's been on our plan to do preventative maintenance on that road for a while," said Carlos Lopez, TxDOT's Austin district engineer. Lopez said it was coincidental that the road work falls at the same time as construction of the track, which was announced in May 2010 and is scheduled to be completed in June 2012, in time for its first Formula One race.

Lopez said the road was rebuilt and sealed in 1990 and then got another coat of asphalt in 2000. It has received only routine maintenance since then, he said.

FM 812 is described as a two-lane road, but the five-mile segment to be reworked has shoulders on both sides that allow slower-moving cars to be passed. The lanes are now 12 feet wide, the shoulders 10 feet wide. After the resealing, all lanes would be striped to be 11 feet wide.

"It's not being widened in any way, shape or form," Lopez said.

TxDOT spokesman John Hurt said that on race days, three lanes would be oriented in the main direction of flow — toward the traffic entrance before the race, away from it afterward — while one lane would handle traffic in the opposite direction.

The track's developers will pay for additional improvements to FM 812 near the main entrance to the circuit , including turn lanes. Those improvements require adding pavement, seven feet on the eastbound approach and 13½ feet on the westbound approach.

The cost of those changes is estimated at $375,000. The developers will post the money with the county, which will then pay the state.

County officials and track developers are expected to meet later to discuss other road-related problems.

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