Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Traffic would be a trade-off for new Dixon Downs

Article Launched: 10/02/2005 08:01:38 AM

Traffic would be a trade-off

By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

Looking south from the intersection of Interstate 80 and Pedrick Road (lower left) would be the site of Dixon Downs (center). (Rick Roach/Reporter File Photo)

One of the lures of the proposed Dixon Downs racetrack is that its numerous horse-racing events would pull thousands of people into Solano County's smallest city.

Horse and gambling enthusiasts would be spending money, service jobs would be created within the county, and Dixon, known for its small-town charm, would have a buzzing regional attraction on its northern edge for the horse races, and even concerts.

The biggest trade-off in the whole deal, however, could be the amount of traffic generated at the event center.

A review of the project predicts the Interstate 80 corridor from Dixon to Sacramento could worsen, offramps will be clogged at two key interchanges in Dixon, and residents traveling to I-80 from First Street and Pedrick Road on race day could be waiting a while.

Warren Salmons, Dixon's city manager, likens the development to Raley's Field, straddling the West Sacramento-Sacramento border.

Area residents surely don't like the periodic game-day traffic "yet that community made a decision based on a lot of factors," Salmons said. "That community was willing to accept less convenience on certain occasions."

The Dixon Downs horse-racing complex is envisioned to be a two-phase project, which has a lot of bearing on the amount of traffic projected there.

The first phase would include the horse track and all of its trappings near the intersection of Pedrick and Vaughn roads, but none of the hotels and retail shops that are envisioned in the second phase that would make traffic more constant.

The proponents of the track, Magna Entertainment, envision 100 horse-racing events per year during the first phase - which averages about two a week - with some being held on weekdays and some on weekends.

In addition, concerts that could be staged seasonally might attract up to 15,000 people per show in the initial years.

For concerts, the environmental review predicts traffic jams at the Interstate 80 onramp at Pedrick Road that could cause waits of more than 15 minutes as patrons try to head east back to the Sacramento area.

For the more regular weekday and weekend horse-racing events, those waits at the Pedrick Road interchange become a more modest four to seven minutes, according to projections.

Meanwhile, traffic in the I-80 corridor, already congested, would increase to what engineers call unacceptable levels in the first phase of the racetrack.

The interstate westbound between Pedrick and Curry roads would approach gridlock on race days, along with Pedrick and Kidwell roads and westbound between Curry and Pitt School roads.

Proponents of the project stress that the traffic will be periodic and not when motorists are commuting on I-80.

"With or without Dixon Downs, I-80 will continue to compact," said Lorne Kumer, a Magna representative. "We're not going to be the straw that broke the camel's back, not even close to that. We create traffic, but it's off-peak and on-weekend. In a way, our traffic is good traffic."

Jason Massad can be reached at county@thereporter.com.

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