Kentucky State Police unveils new speedway traffic/parking plan

Designed to counter problems at 2011 NASCAR race

SPARTA, Ky. - Watch video of the new parking changes in the media player to the left.

SPARTA, Ky.- Kentucky State Police officials rolled out their new and improved traffic and parking plan Thursday for the trio of NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway next week.  

Capt. Dean Hayes said he feels confident it addresses the congestion problems during the inaugural Quaker State 400 last July that kept many fans from seeing the race.

"This year I guarantee you will be better than last year without a doubt," he said during a news conference at the Gallatin County track.

Over $13.5 million has been spent to upgrade the infrastructure around the facility to get people in and out as quickly as possible.

The speedway's share was $10 million to add 20,000 new parking spaces across Kentucky Route 35 from the track. That brings the total number of available spaces to 35,800.

Kentucky invested $3.5 million by adding a lane to the exit ramp from Southbound I-71 to Route 35, widening Route 35 to seven lanes and building a pedestrian tunnel under Route 35 connecting the new parking areas to the track.

It took nearly a year to develop the new traffic and parking plan, which is designed to keep vehicles moving toward the parking areas.

Race fans traveling Southbound on I-71 to the track from Cincinnati will take Exit 57 to Route 35 and be directed to parking lots on the east side of the track. Those coming North on I-71 from Louisville will take Exit 55 to Route 1039 and park in lots off Speedway Boulevard on the west side.

"Our goal is to keep a constant vehicle movement in each open parking lot," said Capt. Hayes.  "The traffic simulation models used show that if this goal is obtained, only very limited backups will occur."

Once vehicles get to the parking areas, Capt. Hayes said the key is to get them to available spots in the most efficient manner possible.

Veterans Security and Parking is the new parking vendor and will have 300 attendants on duty for the Quaker State 400 -- double the amount of people used last year.

Kentucky State Police troopers will supervise the activity in every lot, making sure that the vehicles aren't placed in a haphazard manner.

"One thing we saw from the aerial photographs was that cars were parked too far apart," said Capt. Hayes.  "There's a lot of extra space through proper management we could have parked a whole lot more cars than we did last year."

To ease congestion on I-71 near the track, KSP is asking trucks to avoid the area and instead use I-75 and I-64 to get between Cincinnati and Louisville.

"Commercial vehicles are just bigger," said Trooper Brad Arterburn.  "When they're getting in with the race traffic, it's hard to merge. It's hard to see," said Trooper Brad Arterburn.  "If we can eliminate having those in there we think it will help a lot."

Once the race is over, traffic in the infield won't be able to leave for 90 minutes and those parked outside the track will be held for 30-minutes to begin the trip home.  That's to allow pedestrian traffic to disperse.

"Co-mingling of vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic can present some problems," said Trooper Mike Webb.  "We are trying to allow as many pedestrians as possible to get to their vehicles and off the roadway."

Trooper Arterburn said there will be more forms of communication used than ever before to keep fans updated about the traffic situation -- mainstream media, Facebook, Twitter and AM 1620, a radio frequency that can be heard within five miles of the track.

The best advice for motorists is to come to the track early and taken advantage of free entertainment, a new zip line and a corporate display area outside the track. Gates open at noon.   

"Plan for the day and not the event," said Capt. Hayes.

"That's really what it's about," said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger.  "It's not just a great car race. It's all the other stuff you do when you get here."

Trooper Webb said even with the improvements and planning, there delays are likely as more than 100,000 people converge on the track. Portable signs have already been posted along I-71 indicating there will be heavy traffic between June 28-30.

"We ask the public to be patient and please do not participate in aggressive driving," he said.  

Simendinger said tickets for Thursday's truck race, Friday's Nationwide series competition and Saturday's Quaker State 400 are selling well, but aren't sold out yet.

"I can guarantee you that it's going to be a good show and there will be a lot of people in the stands," he said.  "There's going to be a huge crowd here.  We're not doing all this preparation because nobody's showing up, I'll tell you that."


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