NASCAR: Kentucky to fix traffic woes
SPARTA, Ky. ó A Kentucky racetrack is turning some farmland into parking to avoid a repeat of the gridlock that marred an inaugural Sprint Cup Series event and shifted attention from the roaring racecars to the idling cars as irate fans missed the race.
Officials at Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns and operates the track, said Tuesday they have acquired a 143-acre tract that will boost available parking by 35 percent to accommodate huge crowds that surpassed 100,000 for last monthís long-awaited Sprint Cup race.
Work was under way during the trackís announcement, as a weathered barn was leveled on the property and earth-moving equipment chugged to begin converting the farmland into a parking lot.
ěWe didnít do things as well as we had hoped on race day,î said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger. ěBut now you can see the commitment that we have to make sure that this never happens again.î
The state will assist with an estimated $3.6 million in road improvements aimed at improving traffic flow.
The projects include widening a southbound ramp shoulder off nearby Interstate 71 to allow three lanes of traffic to exit onto a state highway that winds past the speedway. The state also will widen more than a half-mile of that state highway to five lanes and will construct a pedestrian tunnel beneath the highway.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear predicted the improvements ěwill take care of a big part of the logjam.î
Beshear, who is in the midst of a re-election campaign, has boasted of Kentucky landing the coveted Sprint Cup race on his watch. The race attracted more than 107,000 visitors and state officials have estimated an economic impact of up to $150 million.
ěWe will speed up and help solve the challenge of getting fans into the speedway and make the races in 2012 and beyond a much smoother experience,î Beshear said.
Kerry Tharp, a NASCAR spokesman, said afterward that NASCAR ěmade it very clearî to Kentucky Speedway officials that the traffic woes needed to be resolved.