TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) - Four days in London gave Austin area officials a lot to think about when it comes to Formula One racing. What did they learn from that Grand Prix event in England?
Our local officials believe Travis County is prepared for the 300,000 fans that will swarm the racetrack in Elroy in November. But it is clear there are still concerns about that many people coming to town -- especially the looming traffic jams.
"Will there be some bottlenecks?" posed Michael Hemby, planning manager with the Travis County Sheriff's Office. "Absolutely. There will be some. But our job is to minimize those, move traffic in and out as efficiently as possible."
First, it rained in London, which caused major delays. Plus, cars had only seven lanes going to the site. Travis County will have 10 lanes.
Officials at a joint-agency briefing Friday said those routes will exist on FM 812 and Elroy Road, which are now getting major upgrades. There will also be a separate route on State Highway 130 for shuttle buses with their own exit on McAngus Road.
"That may not be the super-highway we have dreamed of," Hemby said. "Ultimately we think what we've built at that location but it's certainly a huge improvement."
For those not driving, 500 shuttle buses will circulate the 40-minute trip throughout the weekend. Fans can catch a ride from two points: the county expo center and a site just west of the Capitol Complex.
Biking is cool, but do not plan on traveling by foot. Officials will not allow it.
"There are no sidewalks," said Gary Schatz with the city's transportation department. "We do not want people to walk to and from the site."
They said traffic in emergencies should not be a problem, either.
"We're going to have motorcycles," explained James Hawley with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. "We're going to have bicycles. We're going to have ambulances ... so we're going to have a multi-footprint of emergency resources to get you there."
Air Traffic Concerns
Officials also address another traffic concern – this one at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Charter planes do not have to have their itineraries filed with the airport until a month before the race, so that number is yet to be determined.
The airport is also trying to work out a plan to deal with a possible influx of helicopters. Some ideas mentioned during the meeting were having them land on parking garages and tops of buildings downtown, but officials were vague on those possibilities.
Various law enforcement agencies will have 200 officers on hand. The public will also see extra officers out in the community that weekend.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said secondary calls will likely have a slower response time. Bigger, more pressing situations will take priority.
And there are some challenges locals might not think about. Royalty and celebrities -- many with their own security forces -- will be in town, so police will have to coordinate with them.
Plus, with an international racing event like this, people are traveling from all over the globe, so there will likely be a language barrier. The chief learned last week during his trip to the race in England that staffing interpreters will be key.
"When I was overseas and my British cousins were speaking to me, I stared really contently at their lips and said ‘What did you say' quite a few times in the four days we were there," Acevedo joked.
But who will pay for all of these extra officers? Well, Circuit of The Americas will handle those at the site. Officials say the rest will not need to work overtime, as they will go to 12-hour shifts and adjust normal schedules to meet the demand.
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