On the day the new Graton Resort & Casino opened last week, northbound traffic on Highway 101 backed up from Rohnert Park all the way to Novato. It took drivers an hour to travel just 22 miles.
The casino is expected to add up to 10,000 vehicles per day to the already overburdened artery, highlighting the need to complete a long-planned Highway 101 overhaul, widening bridges, reconfiguring interchanges, and other improvements.
"A traffic generator like the casino makes this project even more important," said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin. "It emphasizes the need to do it."
Much of that work will be completed by 2017.
But even after all the improvements, the worst bottleneck in the area will remain: the freeway will still narrow from four lanes in Marin County down to two lanes from north of Novato to Petaluma. A lack of funding will leave that 10-mile gap in carpool lanes for at least seven more years, transportation officials say, and frustrate commuters who battle heavy daily traffic between Sonoma and Marin counties.