There have been a few bits of information that have come out in the last few days about the Austin, Texas US GP. As a guy who has been involved in many major construction projects, I know there are always hurdles to overcome and many frustrating moments for those trying to complete a complicated project. One of my contacts in Texas, JB, wrote me a long letter detailing some of the complaints that arose during planning for the Wandering Creek housing development. That development stalled out and died, and now the US GP is planned for that same acreage.
The site has a few characteristics that trouble many of the people who were opposed to the original development. The first of these is the presence of some natural gas and liquid transmission pipelines. The liquid lines are described as HVL (highly volitile liquids) and could be any number of hydrocarbons. Transmission pipelines are meant for long distance transportation of products, not short range local delivery.
Below is a site map that I pieced together from information provided by the Texas Railroad Comission. One of their responsibilities is to regulate transmission pipelines. The first pic is the pipeline map and the second is my sitemap:
The next picture is the raw satelite shot. If you look carefully you can see where the pipelines are located because the area directly above them is groomed to facilitate inspection. US federal law contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requires that the pipeline rights of way be inspected 26 times per year, or once every two weeks.
I have looked further at the CFR requirements in terms of distance from areas of human congregation and found that close location is not prohibited so long as the burial depths meet the requirements of the CFR. Federal regulations trump local regulations. My conclusion is that so long as the pipes are 48" below grade there is not problem. In my experience, the pipelines are always much deeper than that. So there should be no problem. The original complaints identified 4 pipelines, but some of those are offsite and do not figure into the debate. And, the pipelines are at the extreme edges of the property. Here are the relevant regulations:
§ 195.210 Pipeline location.
(a) Pipeline right-of-way must be selected to avoid, as far as practicable, areas containing private dwellings, industrial buildings, and places of public assembly.
(b) No pipeline may be located within 50 feet (15 meters) of any private dwelling, or any industrial building or place of public assembly in which persons work, congregate, or assemble, unless it is provided with at least 12 inches (305 millimeters) of cover in addition to that prescribed in §195.248.
§ 195.248 Cover over buried pipeline.
(a) Unless specifically exempted in this subpart, all pipe must be buried so that it is below the level of cultivation. Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, the pipe must be installed so that the cover between the top of the pipe and the ground level, road bed, river bottom, or underwater natural bottom (as determined by recognized and generally accepted practices), as applicable, complies with the following table:
One of the other complaints is that the site is in a floodplain. This is true. But, it is a 100 year floodplain. Texas is subject to flash flooding. A 100 year floodplain means that each year the area has a 1% greater chance of flooding than the last year. This area is established as such because of the natural amphitheatre shape of the site. It is the reason for the lake seen in the photos at the lowest elevation. Many areas around Austin fit this description. The fact is that the event seldom occurs. Below is the floodmap of the area:
I can absolutly see why people would be concerned about this site as a housing development. But, as a racing circuit I do not see the concern. The odds are quite low that it would happen, and there are ways to deal with it. The buildings and structures that would be occupied year round would be on the higher ground. Depending on when the race is scheduled, the probabilities of the circuit being flooded and preventing the race are small. But, no one would find their personal home and family under water like they would with a housing development.
The developers and promoter are taking what they think is a reasonable risk, and the people of Austin are not threatened in any way by this, so why should there be any complaint?
The last bit of news concerns the water and sewage contract that the City of Austin awarded to Lewis Contractors. The news originated in the Austin Business Journal.
It seems as if this bid has been accepted and canceled before. It appears, as mentioned before on this blog in early August, that the city council approved the project based on the Wandering Creek Development's original documents that were submitted and will require an update from the developer of the F1 site.
The contractor was successful in both bid proposals and was never fully informed of the reasons for the first cancellation. He has suggested that legal action may be required if this bid is also rejected based on new usage plans.
This is pretty common in public bid processes, and I have experience with this process so my comments are based on personal experience.
In conclusion, I do not see any problems that are insurmountable. It seems like normal business to me. But, I am an optimist and I am a proponent of the project. I may not be the best judge of the circumstances.
So I invite people with other opinions to join the discussion and share your thoughts with us.