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Traffic proves problematic at overseas Grand Prix

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TWC News: Traffic proves problematic at overseas Grand Prix
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Heavy rains put a damper on the first day of Formula 1 in England, but Austin’s city leaders abroad said it gave them a revealing look at how different the race could be from anything Austin's experienced before.

The subtle roar of idling engines moving at a snail’s pace is not what race fans, or Austin city leaders for that matter, journeyed to Silverstone, England for, but on this rainy Friday, it’s what they got.

Two days before the Grand Prix race in the small English town, extremely heavy traffic kept many fans from seeing their favorite Formula 1 drivers practice. The snarled traffic thwarted two efforts by the Austin city leaders to tour the track.

"If this is today and what we are seeing, I hate to see what I'm going to experience the next couple of days," Austin’s Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Following Friday’s frustrations, Chief Acevedo said he left wanting to call all of Austin’s police officers to work in November when the Grand Prix comes to Southeast Travis County.

Friday evening ended a 36-hour travel and work day for the Austin delegation, but Chief Acevedo said the extra effort is worth it.

"You can't truly appreciate or grasp the complexity and the monstrosity that this event is going to be for Austin,” Chief Acevedo said. “It's going to be something we've never experienced."

Even though the British Grand Prix's history goes back here at Silverstone to 1948, the traffic is still a problem come race time.

Austin’s greater reliance on cars has Rodney Gonzales, Austin’s Economic Development Deputy Director, worried about the race’s effect on traffic locally. He plans to have more than 500 buses shuttling the bulk of Formula One fans from off-site parking lots to the track.

"We are shuttling 72,000 of the fans from Downtown and from the Expo Center to the site. That's going to be critical after what we saw today," Gonzales said.

Another concern is how the traffic could affect emergency responders. Chief Acevedo's taking notes for Austin's fire chief and EMS director, so they can plan around problems.

"It's just the whole gamut of putting a city together, tearing it apart and putting it together again for several days," Chief Acevedo said.

Austin leaders hope to tour the track Saturday.

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