Road to speedway to open Monday

By Michael Davis

The long and winding road to the racetrack is all but put back together following two years of construction that will be finished on time, a Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.

Unopened portions of the newly widened Ga. Highway 20 from Interstate 75 to Atlanta Motor Speedway will officially open Monday, following a ceremony to dedicate the road as the Bruton Smith Parkway after the track's owner.

”As soon as the ceremony is over ... and as we get it all out of the way, the contractor will take down their traffic control and it'll be open,“ said DOT spokeswoman Dorothy Daniel.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, and Smith, the CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the track's parent company, are all expected to be on hand for Monday's opening.

The wider road, now a four-lane divided highway, is expected to alleviate some of the race day traffic that clogs U.S. Highway 19/41, from which the track's main entrance is accessed, and many of the smaller feeder streets in Henry and Clayton counties. The next race weekend is just three weeks away, Oct. 28-30.

”I'm sure race fans join us in thanking the State of Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Georgia Department of Transportation and many others involved in making the Bruton Smith Parkway a reality,“ AMS President and General Manger Ed Clark said in a statement. ”Fans attending Atlanta Motor Speedway events will enjoy improved traffic flow and daily commuters in our area will see positive changes in their drives as well,“ he said.

The area ”will continue to get the economic benefits ... with less hassle on race days,“ said state Rep. Mike Barnes, D-Hampton, who sponsored the legislation to name the road after Smith. The track is frequently cited as generating more money for the state than most Atlanta sports franchises combined.

The track, Barnes said, ”Is not only important to the local economy, of course, but the state and region.“

Contractors and DOT officials have said throughout the construction that the road would be open in time for this year's fall race. The construction was done in two phases, by two different contractors, for a total cost of about $35 million.

The work included not only widening the road to four lanes from two, but bridging U.S. 19/41 just south of AMS' main entrance, which gives motorists access to parking lots near the track's east turn. It was a more than 10-mile project.

”The contractors have really worked hard,“ said DOT's Daniel. ”They have put a lot of effort into trying to complete it on time,“ she said.

The dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, and the public is invited to attend. Signs will direct attendees to designated parking areas at the track, DOT said.

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