Big changes are due for ‘rural’ Wilfred Avenue
It’s seen as major access from freeway to Graton Tribe casino
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By Jud Snyder  April 26, 2013 12:00 am

Not many Rohnert Park residents drive along Wilfred Avenue except for single-family homeowners and ranchers. The pending arrival of the Graton Tribe casino sent up a signal 10 years ago heralding changes would be made to this rural two-lane road. 

Wilfred Avenue’s destiny is to become the Graton Tribe’s “Main Street” for their casino. 

Prior to the signal, it was simply one of the many two-lane asphalt or dirt rural roads with deep gutters on both sides providing perils for inattentive motorists. It bore resemblance to Labath, Dowdell, Millbrae, Hargrave, Langner, Whistler and other primitive roads sprayed out in an orderly pattern west of RP city limits. They were little used except maybe as shortcuts, or perhaps by an occasional tiger salamander fertilizing eggs on cold, dark rainy nights.

It wouldn’t do any harm to conjecture all these streets may some day receive the same rebuilding Wilfred Avenue is getting, but that’s far into the future. It depends on the painfully slow, inch-by-inch, Sonoma County recovery from the worldwide economic recession.

Wilfred Avenue runs on a straight line from Redwood Drive to Stony Point Road. Part of it is nominally in Rohnert Park from Redwood Drive west to Langner Avenue, RP’s western city limit. The rest, Langner to Stony Point, is in unincorporated county land or tribal territory.

The emphasis is placed on the eastern portion of Wilfred since traffic projections have indicated the majority of casino traffic will be using the 101freeway for access. 

Tuesday night, April 9, RP’s City Council approved a contract to DeSilva Gates Construction totaling $10,845,757 to rebuild Wilfred into a four-lane road with turning lanes, a bicycle lane, a pedestrian sidewalk, curbs and gutters. 

In a staff report written by Deputy City Engineer Patrick Barnes, the estimated cost per day of work by DeSilva Gates is $9,600. Ghilotti Bros., Inc. came in second on the bidding process.

The timing in all this work is exquisite. DeSilva Gates has 95 days to complete the four-lane work from Redwood Drive west to Langner Avenue. There are penalties involved if they fail to meet the deadline. 

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) would like to open their casino as soon as possible and so would their partners, Station Casinos of Las Vegas. Neither they, nor the City of Rohnert Park, want an unfinished two-lane Wilfred Avenue as the main entrance to the casino and its anticipated clientele. It would be a major traffic nightmare.

The rest of Wilfred Avenue west of Langner to Stony Point Road has an 185-day schedule to complete. This portion will be two lanes only plus a bicycle path with gutters filled on both sides. It’s apparent then, this westerly portion of Wilfred Avenue is somewhat of a “back door” or secondary access route to the casino. It will also need a newer bridge across the Bellevue-Wilfred flood channel. Construction will start as soon as the city gives the order to proceed, a formality which is imminent. Traffic studies by reliable firms predict as many as 2,400 vehicles using roads to the casino in a 24-hour period. Other consultants have mentioned a figure closer to 1,500. No one really knows for sure at this point.

Casino debut depends on road

FIGR hasn’t nailed down opening day for its casino, but if you figure 95 days from now you’re probably pretty close to the truth. There could be unforeseen delays such as lack of vital components, need for out-of-town building experts, or people still remember a few years ago when it rained on July 4, halting construction everywhere.

RP still has plans to rename the easterly portion of Wilfred as Golf Course Drive West since it’s a continuation of the east-west street within city limits. 

Graton Tribe foots the bill

This $11 million project won’t cost the city. FIGR has a  Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (JEPA) with both the City of Rohnert Park and Sonoma County. Under this pact, the tribe is “solely responsible” to pay for all design, (obtaining) city and county permits, reviews, inspections, project management, staffing, legal questions, acquisition of right-of-way from land owners, operation and maintenance costs. It also includes any change orders as construction proceeds.

Bids lower than estimates

In his staff report, Barnes noted 28 bids came in for the project and 22 of them “came in below” the previous estimate of $15.3 million. This was because, he added, of a “good bid climate” and the fact, “In essence, the amount of time to construct the project saves overhead costs…the traffic signal and electrical work costs were significantly different than that bid by all bidders.”

Said Barnes, “DeSilva Gates Construction is a responsible bidder with similar construction experience.

“The construction duration for the work east of Langner Avenue, 95 working days, is such that the work needed for the majority of traffic access to the casino can be completed prior to the casino opening.”

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