Questions about Grand Prix of Boston races remain

By RICK WINTERSON

Like all other areas of South Boston, Fort Point has its own civic group – the Fort Point Neighborhood Association. And like the seven other civic groups in South Boston, the FPNA has many questions about the proposed Grand Prix of Boston races this coming Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4, and on the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Labor Day weekends.

The Grand Prix is also called the IndyCar Series; it has been held in many venues for more than 100 years. It is well-known as a spectacular racing event that attracts huge and enthusiastic crowds.

The FPNA met with a four-person panel from Boston Grand Prix on Tuesday, Jan. 26, in The Children’s Museum on Sleeper Street. The Grand Prix/IndyCar panel consisted of Keri Rijke, Traffic & Transport; Brian Hughes, Track Engineer; Kate Norton; and Ken Ryan. Norton and Ryan are from CK Strategies LLC, political consultants located on Broad Street.

The FPNA prides itself on conducting its meetings in a manner that’s both productive and civil. Courtesy to anyone who ventures a question, an opinion or a suggestion is mandatory; indeed, “courtesy” is an FPNA watchword. Their Jan. 26 meeting with Grand Prix of Boston was no exception to this custom.

A large number of FPNA’s questions had been submitted to Grand Prix of Boston in advance; many others came up at the meeting.  A major share of these questions was devoted to environmental effects (noise, exhaust emissions, and so on) and to public safety. The claims of “no cost to the taxpayer” and the race’s economic benefits were reiterated by the Grand Prix/IndyCar panel.

Since many of the race’s applications and permits are pending, ultimate approval of the event is still to come. For example, necessary road improvements for the race won’t be finalized and approved at least until March. However, despite controversies and delays (the original Memorandum of Understanding expired at year-end), the Grand Prix of Boston seems to be steadily progressing.

The “temperature” of the FPNA meeting, although consistently courteous, was also guarded to the point of being skeptical.  One participant used words like “concerned” and “unconvinced” to express her feelings about the event. At no point was there a wholesale endorsement of Grand Prix of Boston, either by the FPNA itself or by any single individual at the FPNA meeting.

Remaining questions include indirect added costs (such as overtime incurred after the event), the effect of race crowds on Boston’s jam-packed college move-in during Labor Day weekend, and the extended  burden of having signed up for five Labor Day weekends instead of just one “test run.” The construction and removal time frame – mid-August to mid-September – could also be difficult.

The meeting left one overall FPNA question unanswered: Is hosting the Grand Prix/IndyCar Series the best use of Boston’s time and energies? The City of Boston has some serious, unresolved issues to contend with, as well as enormous developments already underway along the South Boston Waterfront. The FPNA wants to be certain that our waterfront would benefit from taking on another major project over the next five Labor Day weekends.

The Fort Point Neighborhood Association listens to a presentation on the proposed Grand Prix of Boston from the four-person panel to the right.
The Fort Point Neighborhood Association listens to a presentation on the proposed Grand Prix of Boston from the four-person panel to the right.

Jeanne Rooney

Jeanne Rooney is the Editor in Chief for South Boston Online.