Kentucky Speedway announced Tuesday they have added additional parking and hired a parking and engineering services firm to learn how to manage traffic.
The Speedway was the target of a great deal of criticism when traffic nightmares overshadowed the tracks inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup series race in July. Reports of thousands of stranded fans and many more who were turned away from full parking lots forced Speedway Motorsports Incorporated the tracks owner to react to the situation.
People from the Governor of Kentucky to the CEO of NASCAR were critical of the venues first attempt at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race and SMI CEO Bruton Smith in turn blamed the State of Kentucky for the traffic woes.
Smith, the State and Speedway officials have worked together to take steps to prevent a similar incident in the future.
The steps include the purchase of a 143-acre parcel of land that will be used to greatly expand Kentucky Speedway parking.
“We learned meaningful lessons during our inaugural Sprint Cup Series race weekend and we committed that the traffic congestion that occurred on race day would not happen again,” Mark Simendinger, Kentucky Speedway general manager said. “It was important for us to act quickly and I am thrilled to report this solution, which was formed in only seven short weeks. I compliment and thank SMI chairman and CEO Bruton Smith, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock for working collaboratively on this plan.”
The track said the new land will increase available event parking by 35 percent. The speedway added that it will further improve its parking operation by reinforcing all areas with gravel and painting guidelines to help maximize available space.
Veteran’s Security and Patrol Co., which has the speedway said has extensive experience managing parking during events at venues such as Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen International, will begin servicing the speedway in October. Kentucky Speedway has also hired a traffic engineering company that will employ sophisticated modeling techniques to assimilate the new improvements with existing infrastructure to create the best possible traffic management plan.
According to SMI the company will invest an estimated $7.5 million in its service and parking improvements.
The State of Kentucky in turn has made a pledge to fund a $3.6 million project and plans to present the project for bid by the end of 2011 to ensure work will be complete before the summer of 2012.
Among the items the State is committing to.
Improve the Interstate 71 Exit 57 southbound ramp shoulder to allow three lanes of traffic to exit to KY 35 and directly access staggered speedway entrances during event days.
— Improve nearly one mile of KY 35 from the I-71 interchange. Approximately 0.6 of a mile of KY 35 will be widened to five lanes with two full width shoulders to better service two primary speedway access roads and improve daily traffic flow to Warsaw.
— Construct a tunnel beneath state KY 35 to safely and efficiently route pedestrian traffic to shuttles which transport fans to speedway gates.
The Governor however seems to place the blame for the traffic mess not on the roads, but the parking at the track.
“The NASCAR race weekend this July was a huge success, but it did experience traffic problems, caused largely by inadequate parking,” Governor Beshear said. “To assure visitors have an even better experience next year, we’ve worked hand in hand with SMI to plan improvements that will benefit fans on race day and Gallatin County residents year-round.”
NASCAR said they were satisfied with the efforts.
“NASCAR is pleased with the efforts announced [Tuesday] by Kentucky Speedway, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to address the traffic and parking issues faced by fans at their inaugural Sprint Cup Series race this year,” NASCAR president Mile Helton said in a statement. “We’ve been in close touch with the track and its management since July and the significant commitments announced [Tuesday] support the common goal of hosting the most successful events possible at Kentucky Speedway next season.
“We believe improvements like these are necessary in order to ensure that our fans have the opportunity for an enjoyable race experience,” he added. “We appreciate these efforts and will continue to monitor the progress that is being made.”
Whether the improvements will avoid a repeat of the July incident remains to be seen, but Tuesday after the announcement some fans still weren’t convinced.
“I’m NEVER EVER going again until I get my money back,” one fan wrote on the Speedways Facebook page. “I never even made it in the the facility. I live less than 2 hours away and left 5 hours early for the race. It was my fourth race there and my twenty-something Nascar Race. Fool me once, shame on you…Fool me twice, shame on Me. NEVER AGAIN!”
“Good for you!” another wrote. “Have fun watching the race with no fans next year! We will NEVER waste our time or money coming to Kentucky Speedway EVER again!”
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