|RP sets casino traffic routes
City braces for heavy impact on roadways
Rohnert Park’s soon to have its biggest, grandest grand opening since Costco opened its doors years ago. It’s the Graton Resort & Casino’s debut next month, and no one can say the city’s been merely standing by twiddling its thumbs while 3,000 slot machines were trundled through open casino doors.
Practically everyone in RP City Hall and quite a few residents have had a share in preparing the city for the casino’s impact. They were involved in visiting other casinos like River Rock in Geyserville, to see how they handled traffic impacts, and also made many calls to other California cities with nearby casinos.
It all came to a head Tuesday night earlier this week when the city council got a look at the preparations. Assistant City Manager Darrin Jenkins laid out the elements with the help of a PowerPoint display.
The governing word is “mitigations” and Jenkins noted the impacts can only be “estimated” at this point. His city hall team has held seven meetings with community groups, added a site to the city’s web system and provided a phone number for casino concerns (588-2264) and an email connection (casino firstname.lastname@example.org).
Probably the biggest concern that has already received a lot of citizen comments is vehicle traffic impact. Talking about this was Sgt. Aaron Johnson of the Dept. of Public Safety. He mentioned three phases of this impact – the opening two weeks, opening six months and long-term impacts.
Wilfred Avenue from Redwood Drive to RP city limits is no Golf Course Drive West and will be opened in its new configuration by Nov. 1. New traffic signals will be installed at Redwood and Business Park drives and at the casino entrance on Business Park Drive. Johnson noted there will be “multiple routes to the casino to spread traffic.”
This is needed, for RP is now seen by most non-residents as home for the casino, even though it merely shares a border and is not in the city. New visitors to the city will be taking the RP Expressway exit from the freeway, especially from population centers south of RP, to get to the casino. But this is a bit complicated compared to the true exit at Golf Course drive a half mile north.
CHP will assist local police
The traffic Congestion Management Plan outlined by Johnson will be managed by RP’s Dept. of Public Safety with partners including California Highway Patrol, Rancho Adobe Fire Dept. and other nearby fire departments. RP Director of Public Safety Brian Masterson also will augment his staff with two new officers.
The CHP has already signed a two-week contract to help out in traffic control with an option to continue until Dec. 1 if still needed.
There will be a fire engine and an ambulance at the casino 24-hours a day on a rotating basis. Other agencies assisting include Sonoma County fire-fighting crews and the county Sheriff’s Dept.
Temporary moratoriums on unwanted businesses wanting to share the casino limelight have already been established and new zoning codes and a new oversight program are “in progress.” Jenkins’ plan also has an upgraded landscaping and litter control program in place.
The presentation by Jenkins pretty well covered the steps taken by the city to cope with an experience they have never faced in its history. It also included the wastewater treatment system the Graton Casino has built to connect its wastewater pipes to the city. The casino paid for it but the city will manage it.
Said Mayor Pam Stafford the city is “well-prepared to cope” with the casino. She congratulated Jenkins, his staff and City Manager Gabe Gonzalez for their work. “They really anticipated the contingencies we’ll be facing.”
Council comment was equally filled with praises for the work accomplished. Councilman Jake Mackenzie cautioned his fellow members, “You can’t anticipate every circumstance that could arise.”
The discussion took up 90 minutes of Tuesday’s meeting and no vote was taken. Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan was absent.