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Travis County still has permitting issues with Formula 1 race

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 by Michael Kanin

With less than nine months before Travis County is set to host its inaugural Formula 1 race, county officials and race developers are still dealing with a set of permitting issues. On Tuesday, Commissioners Court signaled its intent to discuss the issues with Circuit of the Americas officials.


The outstanding issues include whether the Texas Mass Gatherings act applies to the facility, still-incomplete road improvement agreements for Elroy, McAngus, and Kellam Roads, a public safety plan, and a traffic management plan.


According to County Judge Sam Biscoe the court is looking for a timeline that would detail when the issues might be addressed. “There’s time,” for the county to resolve the situation, he said. “It’s just that I think we need a timetable. It looks like our staff has been negotiating with representatives from (F1), not achieving a whole lot, but at the same time I don’t know that we know for sure (all of) what’s still outstanding.”


The Austin Formula 1 race, called the United States Grand Prix, is set for Nov. 18. One of the partners in the effort, Robert Epstein, continues to maintain that construction efforts are on schedule despite a lawsuit from former investor Tavo Hellmund and periodic construction delays.


The Travis County Commissioners Court, which holds jurisdiction over the track, approved a variance that cleared the way for the construction of the facility in Dec. 2010 (See In Fact Daily, December 15, 2010). Court members also approved a traffic mitigation plan for the track in September of that year on the heels of a study that initially predicted congestion delays of up to 12 hours (See In Fact Daily, Sept. 22, 2010). As part of the traffic mitigation agreement, track developers were expected to provide some level of funding for road improvements.


The developers were also supposed to provide the county with plans for traffic management and public safety. They question of whether the facility is governed by the Mass Gatherings Act is a newer issue. According to Texas Code, a mass gathering is a “gathering” that takes place when more than 500 people get together “outside the limits of a municipality” for either “more than five continuous hours” or “any amount of time” between 10pm and 4am. The code further states that “(a) person may not promote a mass gathering without a permit issued under this chapter.”


County legal staff maintains that track developers must secure a mass gathering permit from the county. Jenny Gregorcyk, a spokesperson for the Circuit of the Americas executive team, told In Fact Daily that the entire group was in Australia for the first 2012 Formula 1 race and could not be reached for comment.

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