The first lap around the Formula One racetrack was done on foot: over 5,000 people participated in Saturday’s Formula Run, a 3.4-mile race coordinated by the Circuit of the Americas and RunTex. Austinite Wes Johnson was the first to cross the finish line.
The race was also the first chance for the public to view the newly minted, $400 million track.
But last minute registrars and a dense fog that morning, coupled with traffic jams at the intersection of SH 130 and FM 812, forced organizers to push back the start time of the race by forty minutes. Organizers said that Saturday’s event was not an indicator of the type of traffic congestion that will occur during the weekend of the race.
“That event, it had a different set of transportation plans in place for what we have for the Formula One race,” said Ali Putman, Media & Community Relations Manager at Circuit of the Americas. “We have an in-depth, very well planned, well-thought out, and we think will be well executed transportation plan for the F1 race that involves multiple modes of transportation, multiple entrances and exit points.”
But some southeast Travis County residents aren't convinced. The community of Elroy is located less than a mile away from the track. Cathy Olive, president of the Elroy Neighborhood Association, said that local residents used back roads to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic last weekend. But she said that won’t be an option on race weekend (Nov. 16-18), when tens of thousands of fans will descend on their neighborhood.
“I’ve been out there for 30 years. I know that area and I know how tiny those roads are with no shoulder,” said Olive. “One bus crashes into the back of another bus or one transmission goes out on one bus, and traffic is going to come to a standstill.”
According to the Travis County Sheriff’s office, temporary road restrictions around the facility will take effect during the weekend of the race, with violation fines as high as $500.
The City of Austin may be taking heed: Today, city and county officials announced a press conference for Wednesday to "discuss the public safety plans for F1 weekend."