You Thought the Race Was Long

Steven Gardner writes:

In Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun we have a story about the possible traffic impacts. There really wasn’t much of what we would call a “news peg,” which is the one bit of information that merits a full-blown story. The one piece was that ISC is having its traffic plan worked on to present to legislators.


Overall, however, the story is the same as it was in May, when the main question then was “Is it worth it?”

The folks near Watkins Glen seem to think so. Read an editorial from the Elmira Star-Gazette that ran Thursday. It included this bit:

It’s called hospitality. It’s that quality of making people feel welcome and inclined to come back year after year, not just for the race, but for the ambiance created by a populace that doesn’t bellyache about traffic jams or long waits at restaurants. It is an attitude that acknowledges that lots of race fans are good for this region, not just because of their dollars but also because they get a strong taste of Twin Tiers friendliness.

Watkins Glen has had NASCAR for 20 years and the race is part of the landscape. It’s also one of the places race fans like to speculate might lose its place in the Nextel Cup schedule one day. For now, however, the locals are making do and thensome.

22 thoughts on “You Thought the Race Was Long

  1. Remember the Traffic tie up the day the Narrows Bridge was shut down by the crane mishap and how far reaching it was? It took us 3 1/2 hours to get from Belfair to Shelton. They try to claim that Seattle has only limited traffic tie ups when the Seahawks or Huskies have an event, but look at all the roads & road capacity that can accommodate all that traffic in Seattle. We do not have the luxury of roads out to accommodate an increase of traffic especially that large of an event, there is no comparison. Race days would be on days already overburdening the norm. Throw an accident into the mess and no one would be going anywhere for sometime.

  2. I don’t have any opinion one way or another about NASCAR, but I don’t want to pay for it.

    The people who want it should pay for it.

  3. In my ill spent youth , Watkins Glen was the site for some great rock concerts also , like the Alman Brothers and such .

    Its really disingenious to argue that bringing millions into Kitsap county instead of it flowing out out on our commutes is a bad economic policy .

    The bad policy is the government partnership .
    Like Boeing , people are willing to compromise .
    My solution is a legislature who are more concerned with citizens lively hoods and the environment , but willing to pass to tax laws that are business friendly and fair.

    .

  4. Suzanne if a perfect example of what the anti track people want to accomplish. They keep going on and on like the energizer bunny with distortions and untruths. The just keep chipping away at public opinion and hope that if they lie loud enough and long enough, people will start believing them. Mick Boeing is a bad example. Gary Locke and his gang of liberals lost Boeing’s headquarters to Chicago and they knew it would be political suicide if they didn’t get the construction of the new 787 in this State. They spent 3.2 billion of our tax dollars for 1,200 jobs. Thats 267 million per job.

  5. People who attend the race can pay for it. What a lot of people don’t realize is that additional county and state taxes can be added on to the price of every ticket sold at the raceway. A good example of this is Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I am a season ticket holder. Every year when I purchase my tickets I pay the base ticket price (this goes to the track owner) plus Sales Tax (state, county and city) plus an additional Live Entertainment Tax (5%) which goes right to the city and county governments. My tickets are on the less expensive end at $125.00 for the 3 day event weekend. Tickets can easily reach the $300 to $500 dollar range for the same three days. RV spaces can be purchased for $600 to $2500 each. When you multiply an average ticket price times the 150,000 people who attended and then take 5% that’s a lot of money directly into the local government. Kitsap County could easily have a tax such as this added on to offset cost of putting on such an event and to pay for road improvements and other services. This makes the people attending the races and not the community pay for hosting it.

  6. Anyone with a complaint about paying for the track needs to realize that the money does not come out of your pocket. You will not pay more taxes for it. You need to understand that a bond will be taken out to pay for the states portion of the project. That bond will then be payed back by taxes collected from the race track. There are also provisions in the contract that the track owner will pay for any overruns and if the track does not pay for the bond by the time it is due this will be payed by the owner. This case will not happen. The popularity of Nascar in the West/Northwest is to high for the track to not be filled to capacity. The traffic will be problem but the roads being updated is part of the proposal. At least we will get a better Gorst 16/3 interchange which if this doesn’t go through will never happen. By the way if you post and don’t put your name then you are a coward.(IE Anonymous)

  7. My word, Colleen, do you not realize that “road improvements” necessary to match any other NASCAR-style raceway such as that of Las Vegas would be multi-lanes of freeway from I-5 to south Kitsap County, perhaps billions of dollars? Who would pay for that?

  8. What Anonymous misses is that Watkins Glen suffers from some of the same infrastructure challenges Kitsap does. If they can make it work, I think Kitsap County can to.

    And enough with the “I back the track if I don’t have to pay for it.” Only those that attend the races will be paying for it, as the financing package details that as the method for paying off the bonds.

    Lastly, the Glen will NOT lose its date. It and the Sonoma course will stay on the schedule for a long time to come. They represent two challenging road coarses, and are the only two road courses on the circuit. NASCAR needs the road courses as part of the variety in tracks that they run.

    I’m going to the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway this Sunday – first NASCAR race I will attend after watching way too many on TV. I’ll try to relay on my experience in a future comment.

  9. Colleen, I believe the taxes you mention have already been factored into the proposal. See my comment in response to yours over on the “Letters” blog.

    Armand Cyr, there is hardly a word in your comment above that is consistent with the actual proposal. Please provide citations to the pages of the Berk Report or the ISC financing proposal, or section numbers for the ISC legislative proposal, which state what you have said is the proposal.

    Zachary, you say something similar to Armand: “only those who attend the races will be paying for it.”

    I’ve cited the specific pages, paragraphs, sections, etc., previously on numerous occasions before on this blog, so I won’t do it again here unless you need that info. The actual financing plan calls for the use of sales taxes on the construction, and taxes paid directly by out-of-state visitors throughout the state, and taxes paid by people who earn part of their living by providing services and goods to those visitors when the visitors are not at the speedway.

    The maids, clerks, cooks, and waiters who will pay one-third of the taxes used to pay for construction are not people who attend the races.

    I recognize that GWS made this claim about the cost being paid only by people who attend the races — in their ad in the Sun. But, it is a baldfaced lie. (I give the benefit of the doubt to people who don’t know better, but I presume that the people at GWS know the terms of their own proposal and thus know that what they said in that ad is untrue.)

  10. Kent:

    I do realize first hand what road improvements are necessary. When Las Vegas Motor Speedway originally held its first NASCAR race in 2001 there was I-15 (2 lanes each direction at that time) and Las Vegas Blvd (2 lanes each direction at that time). The raceway is 12 miles North of Downtown Las Vegas (the old part of town) and had the Air Force Base as its closest neighbor. Over the course of the last several years I have watched them make improvements to these 2 roads and build new ones. Widening them and making more lanes. Also improving traffic flow by reversing lanes and opening more in the direction needed at the time. With every year that passes I have personally seen the time it takes me to get to and from the track decrease. Did it start out perfect? No. Is it perfect yet? No. Are improvements constantly being made to improve it? Yes. Does the community use these improvements to their benefit when races aren’t happening? Yes. Is Kitsap County going to be perfect at first? No. Can we make it better every year? Yes.

  11. Bob, I think your reading of the Berk report and ISC proposal is certainly open to interpretation. While it is true that visitors and workers will pay the taxes, they are workers and visitors that wouldn’t be otherwise employed if not for the track-related economic activity. Thus, it is a net gain for the state and county. That’s the point of the proposals. Ultimately, who is going to be generating the revenue to pay for those taxes? The people who pay to come to the track…

  12. Zachary, it’s one thing to argue that the tax revenue “generated by” the out-of-state visitor spending would pay for the state’s share of construction costs (if the projected numbers of people and dollars turn out to be right). Even though most people won’t know that “generated by” includes taxes paid directly by the visitors and “indirect” and “induced” taxes paid by people who are neither visitors nor race fans who attend the races, at least it’s not untrue.

    It’s another thing to claim that you won’t pay for the track’s construction unless you attend the races.

    The latter is a lie when it is said by people who know it’s not true but say it anyway with the intent to mislead.

    The motel clerks and maids and the restaurant cooks and waiters are not attending the races. They are spending their earnings after the major racing event weekends are over — and their taxes are swept in with the taxes paid by visitors to pay for the track’s construction.

    Whenever I see supporters of an idea use falsehoods, I figure the idea is no good.

    It’s not “open to interpretation.” Those working people at stores, motels and restaurants are clearly not attending the races. Yet, they would pay one-third of the taxes generated by the operations of the speedway that would be used to pay off the government’s $166 million bond debt.

    Exhibit 15 on page 11 of the Berk report makes it plain — and I figure the GWS folks know exactly what it says.

  13. Bob Meadows has the most intelligent arguments of anyone on this blog. After reading the latest Sun story by Steve Gardener, I was disgusted. Hollywood comes out with a story on NASCAR (Talladega Nights) and that somehow makes NASCAR a good fit for Kitsap County.

    NASCAR is not and never will be a good fit for the county. We don’t have the traffic infrastructure to accomodate it. Investing the millions or even billions that it will take to make these roads passable for the NASCAR crowds would deplete needed monies from other important sites, as well as other important programs.

    Putting a NASCAR track in South Kitsap is about as smart as Will Ferrell’s character on Talladega Nights.

    Just stop asking. Just go away. If you want crowded streets, move. If you want a race, travel. If you want the headache, the noise, the traffic, the environmental impacts, keep demanding something that the majority of this community DOES NOT WANT.

  14. If you build it – it will sprawl. Ever drive down Wheaten way in Bremerton – Imagine that from Belfair to Gorst. Now add one, two or three hundred thousand cars and RVs.
    Oh and about taxes….
    Who will pay the taxes for the emergency services that will need to be added on race days? THE TAXPAYERS.
    Who replaces the environment that gets destroyed by this monstrosity and it’s associated sprawl? Nobody. It will be gone forever. Say hello to NASCAR and goodbye to your rural life. Say hello to urban sprawl.

  15. Brad, seems you are misinformed. Try adding about 35,000 cars and RV’s, maximum. Likely far less due to bussing plans. Who will pay for the emergency services and cops? The county, as a small bit out of its ADDITIONAL TAX REVENUE it will accrue under the current proposal from ISC.

  16. Zachary,

    You’re dramatically understating the traffic impact.

    The ISC proposal that I saw listed a parking capacity of 25,500 cars & trucks, 3,100 RVs, and 580 buses. If those vehicles were lined up end-to-end, touching bumper-to-bumper, they’d form a line over 100 miles long. It they were parked on Highway 16, they would reach from the Narrows Bridge all the way to the Highway 303 – Highway 3 interchange on the north end of Silverdale. That’s assuming that Highway 16 gets expanded to three lanes! If those same vehicles were moving at just 20MPH, they would occupy about 260 miles of highway space. All the roads from the track to the Narrows Bridge, and to all the ferry docks in Kitasp County, combined, have only about 170 miles of available capacity. Including the proposed expansions. Simply put, you can’t fit 260 miles of traffic onto 170 miles of highway.

    If you think the ferry system will help, think again. The ferries across the sound are already at their vehicle capacity on most summer weekends. It’s not unusual to have 90-minute or longer waits now. Add in several thousand NASCAR fans and you’ll be seeing three hour waits or more, just to get onto the ferries. There’s no way the state will fund additional boats and crews just for NASCAR. That’s a non-starter.

    Aside from that, I find it interesting that the traffic scenarios proposed so far (in the infamous “missing pages”) all assume that EVERY fan who takes a ferry to get to the track does so on a bus. I find it highly unlikely that many fans will be willing to spend several hours in a bus to attend an event that glorifies the single-occupant vehicle.

    Another interesting thing from the same source is that the “no ferry” scenario states that there will be 34,000 vehicles going to the site. But the ISC proposal states that the parking capacity will be 25,500 vehicles. Where will those other 9,500 vehicles park? My guess is that they’ll just stop their engines somewhere on the roads to or from the track, because the roads will be parking lots anyway.

  17. Elliot –
    The RVs are there all weekend, so subtract them from the traffic equation on race day. Those are the diehard fans that drive in on Friday afternoon (or earlier) and don’t leave until Sunday night.
    When the Seahawks played in Husky Stadium, my parents would take the ferry across to Seattle and then ride the bus up to the stadium just to avoid the traffic, so I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect many fans to do the same for a NASCAR event. Contrary to your assertion that all NASCAR fans are yokels unwilling to give up their cars, they are quite intelligent and recognize that carpooling is the best way to ensure quick ingress and egress from an event. I didn’t see a single car that didn’t have at least 2 people in it, often times far more, when I was at MIS. Hell, even the bikers had two people per motorcycle.

    I also think you missed some of my previous posts. Even though races start somewhere between 1 and 3 local time, fans start by arriving very early in the morning. I was parked by 8:30 and ended up walking in to the track at nearly 10 AM. Other fans at that offsite location drove their cars in for the weekend and simply slept in tents on the campgrounds. This personal planning by the attendees minimizes the backup. I parked offsite, which is where those other 9,500 vehicles will park. Never underestimate the willingness of those near the track to allow attendees to park on their property for $20 a pop on race day.

    Traffic flow patterns don’t follow logical calculations like the one you performed. If they did, you could deduce that I should have had a 520 mile back up since I just attended a race that only had single and double lane roads that all fed into a two lane interstate that had to handle 160,000 fans, not 80,000. That would have meant a backup equivalent to nearly 150% of the distance between Detroit and Chicago. Funny, I got home in about an hour and a half, so that wasn’t the case.

    Finally, I would suggest that due to the number of out-of-state attenders at the track, a good portion of the traffic will be staying at local establishments on the Sunday night after the race. Thus, you may expect a good portion of the traffic not to head south, but to head north from the track to Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo, and Bainbridge Island to their hotels.

    Good traffic planning is required to make the track work. But I don’t think everyone needs to be so worried about it as ISC and NASCAR deal with this at every other track, several of which are as rural as the Kitsap proposal. The county and state need an honest appraisal of the infrastructure upgrades required, but it will be manageable and local transit authorities and property owners will respond to the demand. Besides, if you don’t plan on attending the races, what do you have to worry about from the traffic standpoint?

  18. Hmmmm… without any upgrades it looks like the road access is similar to existing tracks in Michigan, Talladega, and Phoenix. I’ve driven to PIR and MIS. They weren’t too bad to me. Quote is from the first link in the original blog entry.

    “Should there be no road improvements, Lynch said there will be seven lanes traveling into the speedway area before the race and away from the track afterward, which he said is comparable to tracks the company operates in Michigan, Phoenix and his home track in Talladega, Ala.”

  19. I fully realize that traffic going to the track won’t be as bad as traffic leaving the track. But you do the math, Zachary. To get the highway space required to hold the PARKED vehicles, touching each other bumper-to-bumper, and assuming that 30,000 fans come by bus:

    ((25,500*16.8)+(3,100*30)+(580*40))/5,280

    Where:
    25,500 = number of vehicles
    16.8 = average vehicle size in feet
    3,100 = number of RV’s
    31 = average RV size
    580 = number of buses
    40 = average bus length

    To get the space required for vehicles going 20MPH, add 29.3 (the distance travelled in one second at 20 MPH) feet to each vehicle’s length. That assumes that vehicles leave just a one-second gap (half the recommended amount) between them and the vehicle in front of them.

    Your comparison between Seahawk Stadium and the track site is inaccurate:Capacity at Seahawk Stadium is considerably lower than the proposed trackSeahawk Stadium is MUCH closer to I-5, highway 99 and other major traffic infrastructure such as existing bus routes than the track site. If your parents took the Bainbridge or Bremerton ferries, they rode the bus about a mile to the stadium. The closest ferry dock the the track site is Bremerton, which is 8-10 miles away. I’ve had UW season tickets for almost 30 years, and I am speaking from experience when I tell you that it takes about 3 hours for that traffic to clear out, even though Husky Stadium holds fewer people than the proposed track, and has better access.

    And then there’s the existing traffic in Kitsap County. One of the things that happens here is that people tend to go places on summer weekends. One of the most popular places is the Olympic Peninsula. To get to the Olympic peninsula, almost everyone goes through Kitsap county. That’s why the ferries are at capacity, heading west on Friday night and Saturday, and heading east on Sunday. But not everyone uses the ferry – many people prefer to drive to their destination. And that means that they drive on Highways 16 and 3. Existing traffic is ALREADY heavy on Sunday afternoon and evening with folks heading home from their weekends. Adding 260 miles of traffic to that EXISTING traffic will lead to a nightmare. RV’s stay in the calculation because they WILL contribute to that.

    you said:

    a good portion of the traffic will be staying at local establishments on the Sunday night after the race. Thus, you may expect a good portion of the traffic not to head south, but to head north from the track to Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo, and Bainbridge Island to their hotels.

    When I said there were about 170 miles of highway capacity in Kitsap County, I included the following:Highway 16 from Gorst to the Narrows BridgeHighway 3 from the Mason County Line to the Poulsbo exitOld CLifton and Lake Flora Roads from Highway 3 to Highway 16The road from Hihgway 16 to SouthworthThe Bremerton streets from Highway 3 to the ferry dockThe road from Highway 3 to the ferry dock at Banbridge IslandThe road to the Kingston ferry dockSo I already included the roads you mentioned. The 170 miles of highway space also includes widening Old Clifton, Lake Flora, and Highway 16. Even if you routed traffic on all lanes, you still wouldn’t get enough space to hold all the traffic, especially when you include all the EXISTING traffic coming back from summer weekends on the Olympic Peninsula.

    My point about buses wasn’t to denigrate NASCAR fans, it was to point out that not everyone who takes the ferry will do so on a bus. I was also saying tha t not that many vehicles will be able to get onto the ferries, because the ferries are already at capacity. For those coming by bus, that means a LONG bus ride to and from the track. I don’t think that many people would like that. So I think the optimistic estimate of the number of people taking a bus to the track is unrealistic at best.

    Finally, a major part of the traffic study that I saw was based on a capacity figure of 1500 vehicles per lane per hour. I don’t know the source of that figure, but I did the math. That capacity works out to an average speed of about 4MPH. At 4MPH, it will take SEVEN HOURS to go the 28 miles from the track to the Narrows Bridge. I think that’s a more realistic estimate of the traffic impact.

  20. Elliot –
    Again, I didn’t debate that your calculations were wrong from the arithmetic standpoint. It’s that you can’t use simple arithmetic to estimate traffic patterns. I saw a wonderful lecture about a year ago how one can model traffic flow as a state change in of a fluidic medium – i.e. going from a fluid to a solid in a confined space (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/aug99/traffic05.htm). It is a very non-linear activity. Think about it – those at the front of the traffic swarm experience very few delays. Those in the middle experience a good bit of progressing taffic delays, and those at the end experience the worst delays. So, while I like the math, I don’t think it particularly holds.

    Again, the RVs shouldn’t be included as they arrive on a Thursday night and often stay through late Sunday night if not Monday. They aren’t part of the rush on Sunday morning. That eliminates nearly 20% of the vehicle mileage right there.

    You still need to apply some discounts to the number of people not RV’ing that will nonetheless stay at campgrounds near the site. NASCAR fans do this because they often buy tickets for the entire weekend of racing, not just the premier event. I don’t know how many it will be, but it will likely take a couple of percentage points off the total mileage of vehicles as well. I plan on doing this very thing at MIS next August.

    Next, I think you are discounting the number of people that will walk on to the west bound ferries the day of the race. They could be met by Kitsap Transit or school busses from the local school districts, which would be able to make money by providing the services. A similar approach was used to handle the “invasion” of nearly 100,000 people in Dearborn over the Ford Centenniel a couple of years ago. I took part, parked offsite and took a school bus in to the event. I found it to be a nice ride, especially since I didn’t have to fight traffic near the event.

    You seem to be too worried about how the NASCAR fans will react to the traffic. Many of them will utilize the methods above. A good number of them will still drive their vehicles to the track, and they won’t be angry because they know what to expect.

    You did highlight the other two sports venues, but I think they serve as useful illustration. My parents go to Husky Stadium (72,500) and Qwest Field (67,000) every year, and they utilize public transportation to do so because of the traffic. But you may be shocked to know that 3 hour backups to get out of an event are tollerated by NASCAR fans at other events, just lkike they tollerate them at Husky Stadium and keep coming back for more (even though the team hasn’t done so well the last couple of years). Even ISC points this out in their traffic proposals, so I don’t think you need to worry about the fans.

    You lastly point out the effect of additional vehicles on already crowded Kitsap weekends. But this assumes NASCAR traffic will be additive, assuming the regular traffic will still come to the Olympic Peninsula knowing it will be full of race fans. This doesn’t jibe with my experience at any other major event I’ve heard about, where the local media warns everyone and their brother about the event. This leads to intelligent consumers staying away from the area for that one day, unless they decide to still come to the area and participate in the weekend instead. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that the added traffic will mainly be the total number of vehicles above and beyond the normal weekend traffic, not the normal weekend traffic AND all of the NASCAR traffic.

  21. ISC makes the claim that you won’t pay for the track’s construction unless you attend the races. This is just an assumption that is based upon the assumption that the track will always be used for the big ticket NASCAR races each year for the first 25 years after it opens. From the perspective of the track owners (us taxpayers through the mechanism of the Public Speedway Authority (PSA)) the one really big flaw in ISC’s proposal is that they are NOT required to hold any races at our facility. They are only willing to contract for one year at a time. Therefore, if THEIR product (the races) doesn’t meet THEIR profit projections in our track that was built to THEIR specifications, they will move THEIR product elsewhere and we are left with an empty track.

    Remember folks, the race events are a NASCAR product. It doesn’t take too much imagination to come up with likely scenarios as to why their product in our track may not meet their expectations. Scenarios could range from gas prices getting so high that people restrict their discretionary travel and our location at the far upper left corner of the country is just too far for enough fans to fill the stadium, to fan apathy or loss of interest in the sport. The NASCAR website blogs already have comments that NASCAR is losing its roots and becoming too Hollywood for their traditional fan basis which is speculated to be the reason for the recent drop off of attendance at races. We know our geographical location and the limitations that being on a peninsula brings to road access.

    If the races go away, the track owners (us taxpayers) get to make the payments on the bonds while we try to do whatever we think will attract the races back to our track. Who knows what NASCAR will tell us “must” be done to our facility to once again become competitive with the other tracks around the country. Witness the Sonic’s demands for a precursor of the future on this question.

    So keep in mind that the “who pays” assumption is based on the assumption that there will be races with enough fans to pay off the bonds every year for the next 25 years. In my opinion, an assumption based on an assumption that is shaky at best is not a good basis for an investment of my money. And it is obvious that ISC feels the same or they wouldn’t be looking for us to shoulder that risk through public ownership of the track.

    One thing that we know for sure about the future is that the owners (us taxpayers) will get to pay off those bonds over the next 25 years no matter what happens to the NASCAR product. We may get help from the people that use our facility, and then again, we may get little help if there are no major races. If for any reason there isn’t enough revenue from those fans to make the payments, we will eventually have to foot the bill and that is just not good business for us.

  22. I wish we actually had attendance numbers to see if Bill’s claim was correct. I have a suspicion that the fall off in attendance, if there actually has been one, has been primarily at tracks that host NEXTEL Cup events per year – Daytona, Fontana, Talladega, Pocono, Michigan, etc. Then there’s the races at Bristol, which have 5 year waiting lists. Again, I don’t think you need to worry about fans attending one NEXTEL cup event per year in the Northwest, especially when the track will only hold 80,000. Most of the places that have been rumored to have fall-offs in attendance are the 120,000+ speedway and super-speedway type of courses (i.e. not the Kitsap proposal).

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