MotoGP: Improved Track Access at Austin A brand-new access road from the north will ease traffic at Circuit of The Americas.


COTA Kellam Road access map A controversial 3-lane road leading to Circuit of The Americas has been completed just in time for the track’s big MotoGP weekend. The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, the second stop on the MotoGP calendar, will be held in Austin on Sunday, April 12. The ribbon cutting for the $ 15 million, 2-mile extension of Kellam Rd. was celebrated in late March. The extension, fast-tracked by Travis County Commissioners, completes a link between the north entrance of the circuit and State Highway 71, a major artery that also serves as the main entrance to Austin’s airport. The new road should mean a faster and more scenic trip to the track for race fans. “People’s time is valuable, and this new road will be a huge time-saver for people attending events at COTA,” said Bobby Epstein, the circuit’s chairman. Steve Manilla, county executive for the Transportation and Natural Resources Department, said the road has bike lanes and sidewalks and will allow for flexibility in traffic control for events at the circuit. “You can have 2 lanes going in and then (after the event) 2 lanes going out,” Manilla said. COTA’s 3 biggest events are its Formula 1 race, the X Games and MotoGP. Last year, the announced attendance for the 3-day MotoGP weekend was 118,918. The circuit is strategically located near several highways including the “Austinbahn,” Texas State Highway 130, where it’s legal to go 85 mph. But the problem for the circuit, as it is for some other tracks, is moving fans the final few miles to the race. When the state-of-the-art track was being built a few years ago, it was surrounded by 2-lane country roads that had cracked and buckled because of the underlying clay, the same troublesome soil that caused engineers to dig down 9 feet to stabilize the 3.4-mile racing surface at COTA. The surrounding roads no longer ride like roller coasters and the shoulders were fixed on FM 812 on the circuit’s south end so that it’s now a 4-lane road near the circuit’s main entrance. To the north, however, construction plans were complicated by a small bridge on Elroy Rd. Manilla said the bridge was too low and needed to be replaced. While that proposed project to widen Elroy stalled, the circuit came up with a different plan for an enhanced northern entrance. In 2012, COTA bought about 200 acres of ranch land north of the track so that a 0.6-mile extension of dead-end Kellam Rd. could be built. That 3-lane road was rushed to completion in a mere 2 weeks and opened just in time for the circuit’s inaugural Formula 1 race in November 2012. While that road helped, it only connected the circuit to another 2-lane road, Pearce Lane. An extension of Kellam all the way to SH 71 looked better in dealing with race-day traffic, but Travis County voters weren’t asked to make that choice. Instead, Travis County commissioners fast-tracked the project with their own vote. Even with that end-around, the project faced other obstacles. Some of the land is prone to flooding and the road—and its significant price tag—had to reflect that. “There is some significant bridge structure that was part of it,” explained Manilla. The project was completed in a year and county officials say it will help the economy of the region, not just the circuit. Not everyone is convinced. Cathy Olive, president of the Elroy Neighborhood Association, told Austin TV station KEYE, “On the 3 weekends a year when the race track is busy, it’ll shoot cars into the race track and that’s all it’s going to do. It’;s not going to help the neighborhood.” The new road doesn’t cut through the neighborhood but through more scenic ranch land. On a recent trip down Kellam there were no Texas Longhorns in view, but plenty of other cattle added a nice Western touch to the improved ride.