This is a copy of an email we sent to Tavo Hellmund at Full Throttle Productions. This is in response to the questions raised by the traffic study commissioned by FTP and delivered to the authorities. Please read the full report. It can be found here:
Hello Mr. Hellmund,
I am John Flood from the blog formula1journal.com
I know Vance Facundo and Tim Wood from Friends of Formula 1 Austin, and I am a supporting member of that group. They have given me permission to discuss this subject with you. I have been promoting the race through my blog and forum. I have been to F1 races in 6 countries, have contacts within F1, and I concentrate on the technology and business of F1. I provide technical support and F1 education to the Austin efforts.
Back in September a associate of mine sent a detailed traffic study of the Austin project to Red McCombs' group. It was developed by his risk management associates at a firm near Dallas. The firm focuses on risk assessment with regard to major projects and events. I will not mention the firm by name as they are not currently seeking a commercial relationship, but instead have a sporting interest in the event.
Just for informative reasons, here are their conclusions:
I am writing to you as just a concerned Formula One fan who has experience in managing venues and the political process involved in the development and management of same. I am afraid that the effort to be ready for the first race is in danger of being hijacked by well meaning people in both the public and private sectors. What came out of the Travis County Commissioners’ office today is completely unacceptable. Their plan will result in a horrible customer experience for the first race and will put the remaining nine races in jeopardy from a PR standpoint.
I offer the following as what HAS to be done starting as soon as possible. Overriding the information below, is the immediate need to gain control of the process with the City of Austin, Travis County and the Tollway Authority. One does not wait for these groups to act; rather one takes a plan that they can sign off on. Below are some ideas as to the issues facing Tavo.
Water, Sewer and Solid Waste
Fairly easy, the water lines are already being positioned. This is more an issue for the research/office park than the track. However, Tavo will be responsible for implementing (i.e. paying for) the work within the track.
Again, Tavo will have to build retention pools and all of the drainage within the track area. The county will have to provide the offsite connections (and will attempt to hold Tavo hostage for as long as they can).
Electricity/Communications (telephone, cell phone and internet)
The only break Tavo will get. These providers will do all improvements to distribute their service throughout the property. Kicker will be the hook-up charges for the telephone and internet.
The issue is the parking requirements, not who will pay as this is all for Tavo’s account. The issue for Tavo is how much permanent (i.e. concrete) v. temporary (Tavo says not field which means to me some type of pavestone). The outlying issue is environmental as the tree huggers will want as little concrete as possible.
Anyway, the typical parking space is 9x18 (counting half the driveway). For an estimated 100,000 spectators Tavo will probably have to show around 1 vehicle for every 2 fans (have to account for all of the service and team vehicles). 50,000 spaces equates to almost 200 acres of the facility devoted just to parking.
The continuous issue due to cost. At issue (and what will be argued) is public funding for what will be a commercial enterprise. I will go road by road. Unless otherwise specified the number of lanes means the total number – so 4 lanes means 2 in each direction, etc..
-- A minimum of 4 lanes from 183 all the way to Highway 21
-- The part between 130 and Elroy 6 lanes divided (see below for the reason)
-- A minimum of 4 lanes from 973 all the way through the property
-- Make a direct connection with 812 at 973
-- Go under new 130 service roads
-- Residents/tenants on Bacon Strip, Towery and Vega will have to be accommodated
-- This will be the road for the service vehicles (shuttles, media, team vehicles) so somewhere there will be a security checkpoint.
-- Build 6 lanes of service road between 812 and Elroy
-- A minimum of 4 lanes from 183 all the way around to 812
-- The part between 130 and 812 6 lanes divided (see below for the reason)
-- A minimum of 4 lanes from Elroy to Highway 21
-- Keep service vehicles and the fans separated.
-- One-way traffic around the perimeter. With the divided perimeter roads divided, the inside lanes can be used for the immediate entry into the property with the outside lanes being allowed to keep moving (the whole key to parking). As those in the outside lanes near their entry point they will move over to the inside lanes. Keep the pattern throughout the event. (Some traffic engineers will say different entry and exit directions. This isn’t the best as it confuses everyone. Learning one way is the easiest.)
-- All employees park off property and are bused in. Not only takes vehicles off the perimeter roads, but it helps with employee security.
How to pay for all of this? For the parking, which will be the second biggest issue, lately several stadiums have been able to fund parking by establishing “parking companies” and issuing revenue bonds to cover the parking cost.
For the infrastructure, Tavo is going to need a Utility District to pay for the “off premisis” infrastructure improvements (utilities and roads to the site) and an Entertainment District to pay for the roads around the property. These two Districts will enable revenue bond financing which would be paid for through taxes applied to tickets for all events on the property.
I am sure your staff already knows the financing, but the infrastructure has to be completed in conjunction to the track, not afterwards.
As I indicated in my opening, I am a concerned F1 fan who has an insight on how to get these things done. I am available at anytime to provide any insight that I can offer in an effort to fet this project done right.
The concerns expressed by the County are covered by the conclusions in this study. I would agree with the County with regard to the widening of Elroy. But, I would focus on the "circular" traffic routes available on an unimproved Elroy Road to counter the argument that a four lane road is necessary for the initial event. The circular route eliminates some of the concerns regarding contra flow. We can easily provide more details, including mapping, if there is any interest on your part.
End of Email
The email included contact info that we will not include here. After having read the details of the traffic study produced by Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. there were a number of questions offered by the authorities. This is all available on the link above, but the focus was emergency management in a contra-flow situation.
The next meeting is on the morning of Tuesday December, 14th. That is tomorrow for me, but will be today for those of you reading this in Europe.
The situation is managable, but time is critical, and the timing is dependant on who pays for the initial costs of the improvements. If the promoter does not agree to pay for the cost (perhaps to be reimbursed) then the improvements will not happen.If the County requires the improvements, then FTP has no choice but to agree. Estimates place the costs at about $6 million USD. That is small change on a project of this magnitude, and surely FTP must have that in contingency.
Later they can try to recover their costs through the funding systems available.