One of the remaining hurdles to be crossed between the F1 promoters and the AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) is the traffic plan. Everyone understands the need to move all competitors, vendors and attendees to and from the site safely and in a timely manner. It is also understood that the site must be prepared for a major incident that impacts the group as a whole. A plan must be in place that satisfies these concerns and has a reasonable chance of managing any conceivable probability. The plan must also insure that the event will not be a commercial failure due to undue delays that may sour the attendee’s personal experience and impact the future attendance at the event.
The City Council tabled an agenda item scheduled for the Dec. 14th meeting, an item that was meant to address the F1 traffic plans. The item was moved into the New Year, but the exact date has not been determined. One may ask why that happened. In the opinion of many observers, the answer may be the absence of a dedicated project management effort, an effort that considers everything from circuit homologation to hot dog sales. Tilke may be too focused on the details of what goes on inside the fence to manage the things that happen elsewhere i.e. the City Council, etc.
The AHJ needs to have proposals mooted to them that can be approved without taking any gigantic risks. The traffic proposal previously submitted by FTP did not satisfy the staff of the AHJ, did not make anyone in Government comfortable, and basically was a “do nothing to the roads” plan. The plan suggested that traffic management, mainly done via shuttle busses and offsite parking, would be all that is necessary.
It is clear, to anyone who is reasonably well informed, that this will not work. Instead, the real issue is who will pay for the necessary improvements. Will the developer pay for the improvements, or will the public pay for the improvements?
I do not intend to get into a discussion about the philosophies regarding public funding for private development, but instead will look at the issue from a practical point of view regardless of who pays the freight.
In my opinion 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 US. 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.
Here is an overhead view of the site. The tract shown in blue is the property being developed for the F1 circuit:
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It is apparent that the designers and engineers agree about the inadequacies of the roads. They have designed a much more realistic solution and that solution is included in their project package. FM 812 is the southern road that connects the property to HWY 130. It is currently a 2 lane highway. Take a look at the proposed entrance to the F1 site at FM 812 as contained in the FTP blueprints below:
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This design is a proper solution to ingress to the site. Applying this design westward on FM 812 to Hwy 130 would benefit the F1 facility, the public at large, and the town of Elroy. The argument is about who would pay for it.
Regarding Elroy road, the road improvements designed for FM 812 should be used on Elroy road as well. This would insure that the two main arteries entering the facility have been maximized. Everyone should agree that this improvement would help all parties involved.
The roads shown in red on the overhead view of the site are all roads that should be included in the improvement plans. Elroy and FM 812 up to the entrances of the facility are a "must do" in my opinion. The roads that connect these two points around the eastern edges of the property should be highly considered for improvements as well. They are very important opportunities to create an overall traffic solution.
Airhog111 has suggested that the combination of roads shown in red could be used in a circular fashion to route the traffic flow around the site. All traffic would travel in the same direction regardless of where the vehicle entered the flow or where it exited the flow. Lanes could be designated for those vehicles turning into or out of the "circulation" in much the same way an European traffic circle operates. He also suggests that McAngus, not included in the circumfusion, could be designated as the ingress and egress point for all road based emergency vehicles. That route would be reserved for emergency vehicles and all other official traffic.
That is a good idea, but that would require upgrading all of the roads that circumfuse the site. It is the best solution but will never be agreed to by the parties involved because of the costs.
Suppose a miracle happened and an agreemnt was reached that would include many of the suggestions included above?
Let's assume that the promoter would assume the costs based on the assumption that a Utility District would be established in the near future and that district would reimburse those costs over the long haul. Ok.
The question now becomes "can it be done in time." No, of course not if the entire scope is to be realized. That leaves us with the question of what absolutely must be done before the first race.
FTP and the AHJ have their own opinions on that subject, and the answer will be forthcoming, but I will bet that the improvements to FM 812 and Elroy road from Hwy 130 to the site entrances will be the minimum solution agreeed upon.
To many of us it seems that these questions should have been answered long ago. The Formula 1 United States team, along with FTP, have done a pretty good job with most of their efforts, but it seems as if they have lost control of the traffic plan to the AHJ. That is dangerous and uncertain ground to be building one's foundation on.
Tomorrow - Part 3, The public safety plan, inside and outside of the facility