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By Kevin Kelly
The Kentucky Enquirer
SPARTA – Kentucky Speedway and state officials unveiled their plans Tuesday to correct the traffic and parking problems experienced at last month’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns the Gallatin County track, is investing an estimated $7.5 million. That amount includes the $1.5 million the speedway paid last week to acquire 142 acres of land across Ky. 35 from the track. The added land will allow the speedway to park about 10,000 more cars, general manager Mark Simendinger said.
The speedway also has hired a new company to manage parking and will retain a traffic engineering company to create a new traffic management plan.
The Ky. Transportation Cabinet projects it will spend $3.6 million on road improvements to improve access to parking areas at the speedway. The cabinet will use its contingency fund to pay for the project.
The state work will include improving the off ramp from southbound Interstate 71 at Ky. 35, allowing three lanes of traffic to exit onto Ky. 35; widening more than a half-mile of Ky. 35 from the exit to five lanes with two full-width shoulders.
building a pedestrian tunnel beneath Ky. 35. to link the new parking area with the speedway.
The work is expected to be completed before next summer.
Miles-long backups formed along the interstate and other roadways leading to the track for the inaugural Quaker State 400 on July 9. Fans still stuck in traffic when the traffic pattern was switched were turned away.
Speedway officials blamed part of the problem on parking lots reaching capacity faster than anticipated as more than 107,000 fans converged on the venue for the race. The speedway sits on 843 acres and at the time had 10 parking lots capable of accomodating 33,000 cars.
SMI chairman Bruton Smith also announced Tuesday that next year’s Quaker State 400 is scheduled for June 30. It will cap a tripleheader race weekend that again will include NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series.