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Casino opening results in heavy traffic, frustrated drivers

  • Traffic on northbound Highway 101 is gridlocked, as seen from the Rohnert Park Expressway overpass, due to traffic from the opening of the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

Hordes of people bound for opening day at the Graton Resort & Casino jammed Highway 101 and the streets of Rohnert Park on Tuesday, and the CHP warned motorists to expect congestion at least through the weekend.

“It's a new neighborhood, and patience will be required,” CHP Officer Jon Sloat said.

REAL-TIME TRAFFIC NEAR THE CASINO

The traffic onslaught began at 9:30 a.m. and by noon the freeway backup peaked for about an hour, stretching 24 miles south to Highway 37, he said.

Graton Resort & Casino Opening

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A traffic sign at Novato warned drivers that it would take an hour to reach Rohnert Park, Caltrans spokesman Steve Williams said. That distance is 22 miles.

At midafternoon, Sloat said he had no official traffic count but estimated that it topped the forecast of 10,000 additional vehicles on the freeway and streets leading to the casino on the western flank of Rohnert Park.

“I would say this is the worst-case scenario,” Sloat said. But there were only two collisions on the freeway, both unrelated to the casino crush, he said.

As several surface intersections became clogged around the Wilfred Avenue exit from 101, officers were dispatched to direct traffic.

“We didn't get overwhelmed, but the roads did,” Sloat said.

The CHP will continue to put four patrol cars, three motorcycles and a sergeant in the area through Sunday in case the novelty of opening day does not abate, he said.

Casino-bound motorists were advised to consider alternate routes by leaving the freeway at Old Redwood Highway in Petaluma or West Sierra Avenue in Cotati and taking Stony Point Road north to Wilfred Avenue, then east to the casino.

At Golf Course Drive and Commerce Boulevard east of the highway, horns blasted through the morning air as drivers blocked the intersection while trying to squeeze through as lights changed.

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