- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 18, 2002

Residents who live near RFK Stadium, the site of this weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix racing competition, say they fear a lack of public parking for the event will force spectators to park on neighborhood streets.

There will be no general parking provided for spectators at RFK during the event and race officials are urging people to take Metro. They also will provide continuous-loop shuttle service from U.S. Airways Arena in Landover.

But residents who live near the near the racecourse are skeptical about whether the plan will work.

"The people who come from out of town, they're not going to park in Maryland and ride in," said Bobby Giles, who lives in Northeast near the racetrack. "They're going to park wherever they can."

Mr. Giles, 67, has a special-event parking permit, which residents can get for free from the D.C. Department of Transportation by displaying proof of residence. Temporary passes for visitors can be obtained from police precincts.

The D.C. DOT posted special-event signs in the neighborhoods surrounding RFK earlier this year listing specific dates when street parking is prohibited including most of this weekend. But residents said they doubt the signs will keep spectators from parking.

"I know it's going to affect the parking," Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Colleen Harris said. She said parking-enforcement patrols "help, but they don't cure the problem."

In a community newsletter distributed by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission dated summer 2002, the commission and race organizers said they are "working with the Metropolitan Police, Emergency Management Agency and others to close designated streets near Lots 6 and 7 during the days of the event except for residents and to enforce all parking regulations."

D.C. police spokesman Tony O'Leary said police will be able to handle any traffic problems that arise.

"There will be extra officers to help with the security concerns, so I'm sure they're going to be looking into any parking complaints," he said. Officer O'Leary said there are no plans yet to close off any of the streets surrounding RFK to traffic.

National Grand Prix, with help from the city, built a 1.7-mile track for the Formula 1 races, complete with bleachers, fencing, a press box and a sound-barrier wall, on the two largest parking lots at RFK Stadium.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he expects the benefits from the race to far outweigh the costs to the city.

The 10-year contract the city has signed with race promoters is estimated to have an economic effect of $350 million for the city.

But D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, has criticized the sports commission for not properly engaging the community in its plans for the race. Some households are within 50 feet of the track.

Rufus Johnson, who lives less than a quarter-mile from the track, says he has breathing problems and plans to spend the weekend indoors because he fears the effects of the fumes from the race cars' exhaust.

"It would have made us happy if they had never put this race here," he said. "The mayor thinks more about the money than he does about the people."

In addition to residents' complaints about parking, air and noise pollution, some members of the D.C. Council also have expressed concern that officials of the sports commission misled them about the construction costs for the racetrack.

Council members found out late last week that the city would be putting up nearly $5.1 million for the construction of the racetrack, instead of the $3.5 million that D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission proposed.

The Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., will be the first major auto-racing event in the D.C. metropolitan area in more than 80 years. The LeMans race will be televised live on NBC. CBS will air the Trans-Am race.

The races will feature 200 Formula-1 cars in races from four sanctioning bodies: American LeMans, Trans-Am, World Challenge and Star Mazda.

It also will include a stunt jump by motorcyclist Robbie Knievel, and many celebrities are expected to participate in the event.

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