For years, the F1 circus complained about horrendous traffic surrounding Britain’s Silverstone Circuit and, earlier, Watkins Glen in the upstate New York “Finger Lakes” region. The drivers, of course, have almost always taken private helicopters, available to ultra-rich fans as well. But until the British government in late 2001 — via letter from Tony Blair to Max Mosley, the then all-powerful president of motorsport’s governing body (FIA) — committed to road improvements, the Grand Prix of Britain was under threat of being dropped from the Formula One calendar.
Now that same problem is already affecting the debut United States Grand Prix, scheduled for November 2012 in Austin, Texas at a new, under-construction circuit. Seems that it will cost some US$5 to $6 million to repair and expand about a mile of Elroy Road, a bumpy two-lane county road that leads to one of the track site’s two entrances. Elroy Road to be widened, but not before first F1 race | Austin Statesman.
That’s a lot of money for one mile of road construction, but it nonetheless pales in comparison to the reported US$25 million licensing fee paid to Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management for the right to hold the GP. And since we all know that for Bernie it’s all about the money, don’t expect Formula 1 to cut Austin any slack, let alone chip in.
Not that any of this is unexpected. In December 2010, promoters released a zoning plan that called for “a 3.25 hour traffic delay” with use of shuttle busses and the like — which even then cautioned that “the traffic congestion associated with the first Grand Prix in 2012 could be worse that what is modeled at this time.” A year ago, local reporters likewise observed that a serious traffic management plan would be crucial to the success of the event:
The roads that immediately surround the F1 site are inadequate for the demands of a major racing series. I cannot cite any studies, but I have been to racing events in six countries and more than 25 locations in the U.S. I have driven around the site, looked at the existing roads, and I recognize that the road infrastructure is inadequate. It barely satisfies the current daily demands. Improvements are needed….
La plus ca change.