SPARTA, Ky. - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear joined with officials of the Kentucky Speedway Tuesday to show off new plans to increase parking and access to future Sprint Cup racing dates starting next year.
Speedway officials formally announced what many people had already heard. The racetrack has bought a 143-acre parcel of land across the main access road from Speedway headquarters to provide additional parking for thousands of cars and RVs.
The additional parking should increase overall parking at the Kentucky Speedway by 35 percent, according to Speedway officials.
"This is an exciting day, not only for the Kentucky Speedway but for the whole Commonwealth of Kentucky," Gov. Beshear said.
He says right after seeing the huge traffic problems from the first Sprint Cup race at the track, Kentucky put together a team that included the governor's office to find solutions to the access problems.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet also says it will work through the fall and winter to improve highway access to the Speedway.
In addition to the added parking, Kentucky plans on expanding lanes and shoulders on State Route 35 and I-71 exits to the speedway as well as building a new tunnel underneath SR 35 to help pedestrians get to entry gates more quickly.
"We are putting our money where our mouth is in helping race fans get to see the races they want," said Mark Simendinger, General Manager of the Kentucky Speedway. "Kentucky Speedway is committed to providing fans with the best race experience."
The announcement comes just weeks after tens of thousands of Sprint Cup race fans found they could not make it to the Speedway or find parking for the first Sprint Cup race at the Sparta track. Many fans simply gave up trying to get to the Speedway after encountering hours of backups on I-71 and access roads near Sparta because of the overwhelming traffic jams.
Speedway officials admit they sold out more than 100,000 tickets to the first Sprint Cup race. They also say original access and parking plans for the race were not adequate for the crowds that came out to see the races.
Kentucky Speedway has been working with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Kentucky Highway Patrol, the Kentucky National Guard and Gov. Beshear's office to figure out the best way to avoid traffic and parking troubles in 2012.
Speedway officials say they are spending more than $7.5 million to improve parking and access services for the racetrack. Gov. Beshear says $3.6 million from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet contingency fund will be spend on Speedway-related improvements.
We'll continue to look into what the new access plans for the Kentucky Speedway mean for NASCAR fans as well as all of Northern Kentucky. Look for further updates on this major story, here at WCPO.com and on 9 News.