City, state leaders talk safety on F1 weekend
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In just a few weeks, Austin will join a list of world class cities. The Circuit of Americas track in rural Travis County will host the first F1 race in the United States since 2007.
As crews scramble to put the finishing touches on the track for the U.S. Grand Prix, emergency officials want to make sure the city is prepared.
Monday morning, high ranking officials met to make sure all agencies are on the same page. Border patrol, the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Public Safety were among those who met with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Congressman Michael McCaul.
All insist that Austin is ready for a green flag, but are asking for help from the federal government.
McCaul is the Chairman of Homeland Security Oversight Committee.
"I don't think Austin really understands what is getting ready to happen," he said. "My job is to put it on their radar screen that this is a big event, a lot of people you say ‘Formula One,’ and they don't even know what that is. My job is to be the messenger and to carry that impact back to Washington and to make sure that we have the resources here to handle this type of crowd that we know is going to hit."
The crowd will have a large international presence, and in order to understand what to expect, several city reps took a trip to London this summer to study the experience.
"We know how to do big events. We're used to that here in Austin,” Mayor Leffingwell said. “We have never seen anything like this. The eyes of the world are going to be on us. At the same time, we know it is going to be a bit of a learning experience."
With city resources stretched thin, Austin police are trying new tactics. For instance, having detectives put on a uniform and work as patrol officers.
"Number one it saves us overtime dollars, but number two it provides us an opportunity to work on our emergency capabilities and keep them in the game," APD Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
While the leaders are confident they are ready for race day on paper, the real race is expected to test every aspect of the city.
A large crowd will be coming in by air. To accommodate this, TSA will open four additional security lines at the airport - lines that McCaul says will stay open during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The US Grand Prix is scheduled for Nov. 16, 17 and 18.