Neighbors of F1 track call late-night construction a nuisance
Don Haywood, left, and his friend and neighbor Vance Facundo stand near the edge of Haywood's property, which overlooks construction of the Formula One track. Haywood is critical of construction work done at night.
After the sun sets, bright lights come on, and work continues on the Circuit of the Americas track being built in southeastern Travis County. Track officials say they are on schedule to host the Grand Prix on Nov. 18.
By John Maher
Updated: 5:11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012
Published: 8:34 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22,
Neighbors of the $300 million racetrack being built in southeastern Travis County plan to meet with county commissioners and officials this week to discuss concerns about late-night construction at the track and a preliminary traffic plan for the Formula One race scheduled for Nov. 18.
"This week, my dance card is going to be pretty full," said Cathy Olive, head of the Elroy Neighborhood Association.
Olive said recently that noise from the construction and bright lights near Elroy Road have kept some area residents up at night.
Another resident said that, on occasion, Circuit of the Americas has been lit up like a small city at 2:30 a.m.
Don Haywood, whose property overlooks Turn 11 at the track, said, "There's about 10 or 12 of these lights. ... Everything is illuminated on the west side of my house."
Haywood, a retired police officer, said all-night construction has gone on for about 10 days.
"They'll have 20 to 25 trucks just lined up, gravel trucks," said Haywood. His 15 acres are virtually surrounded by the track, which is suing him over a water line that cuts across land that the track wants to turn into a parking lot.
On Tuesday night, from Haywood's property, workers could be seen entering the track after the day shift left.
Track officials have consistently maintained they are on schedule to host Austin's inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in the fall.
Elroy residents, however, speculate that the track is playing late-night catch-up because of the recent wet weather and previous delays. F1 officials won't comment on whether there have been construction delays, but Haywood said work has temporarily halted after recent heavy rains.
From the beginning of December through Wednesday, 16 inches of rain were recorded at nearby Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, far higher than normal. From February through September last year, only 4.34 inches of rain fell in the area, including only 0.06 inches from July through September.
During that dry stretch, however, there were periods when the construction at the 3.4-mile track was slowed or almost halted, as questions persisted about whether the race would happen.
The sanctioning fee for the U.S. Grand Prix was not paid to Formula One management until December, finally assuring that the race would take place, assuming the track is completed on schedule and it passes a stringent inspection.
As many as 120,000 spectators could attend the Nov. 18 race. Track consultants have said traffic could be delayed at least three hours on race day. Olive, who lives across Elroy Road from the track, says he's worried the race traffic and the narrow roads around the track could combine to create one of worst traffic jams in Austin's history.
Recently a consultant for the track spoke with Olive about the transportation plans for the week of the event. Residents would be given a pass that would let them through traffic to get to and from their homes.
"Who gets the coveted paper pass?" Olive said, wondering how close someone would have to live to the track to qualify.
Olive is skeptical that the strategy could work with Elroy's limited roads. Although FM 812 will be reconfigured to four lanes, the other roads bordering the track are bumpy two-lane roads with no shoulders.
Track officials declined to talk about the specifics of the plan.
"We have been in contact with area residents," said Jeff Hahn, a spokesman for the track. "This was the initial discussion to open up the communication channel."
Olive said: "I am going to stop the paper pass thing in the bud. ... I am not allowing us to be traffic lab rats.