Widening Interstate 71 probably wouldn’t improve traffic flow into the Kentucky Speedway, Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday as he confirmed that his chief of staff will lead a team looking at ways to avoid traffic jams on race days.
Beshear, speaking during a news conference that had been called to discuss another topic, said the massive traffic tie-up that forced thousands of fans to miss the track’s inaugural Sprint Cup race July 10 probably was caused by parking problems.
He has named his chief of staff, Mike Haydon, to head a team of officials from the state police, Transportation Cabinet and the track to find ways to improve traffic flow for next year’s Sprint Cup race.
The cabinet said earlier this week that I-71 and its two exit ramps near Sparta were adequate to handle Saturday’s traffic.
Beshear said it appeared that the bottleneck was caused by motorists who were unable to get their vehicles into the Speedway’s parking lots quickly.
Speedway officials have said they must find ways to reduce the number of vehicles heading to the track, possibly by using shuttles from other locations.
Beshear said that his team will look at whether more roads are needed at the track but that I-71, which is mostly four lanes except near the track, appears to be sufficient.
About $87.7 million has been spent in state and federal funds on road projects near the Speedway since 1998.
Republican Senate President David Williams, who is trying to unseat Beshear in the Nov. 8 general election, has called for legislative hearings in September on the traffic problem.
Beshear said such hearings are “fine.”
Asked about national criticism of the traffic problem, Beshear said that the race was “an inaugural event” for the track and that “everyone anticipated problems. We will work this out.”
This article was written by Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader, and was originally published there. It is reprinted here with permission.