High traffic volume expected for casino openingPublished 12:53pm Saturday, December 14, 2013
Travelers on U.S. Highway 231 in Wetumpka are advised to expect heavy traffic and congestion beginning Tuesday and continuing for the following four or five days.
Wetumpka Police Chief Celia Dixon said there is no way to accurately forecast the impact on traffic of the opening of Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino’s new 90,000-square-foot gaming facility, but it is expected to be significant.
“When the casino opened in Atmore several years ago, it caused a big traffic problem especially on opening day,” she said. “I can remember that it tied traffic up on the Interstate.”
Wind Creek Wetumpka is about 50 percent larger than the Atmore operation with more than 2,500 games compared to Atmore’s 1,800 in 57,000-square-feet. The new Wetumpka casino will offer more than twice as many games as the 1,182 currently available on the site’s current gaming floor.
“It is going to be a problem of the unknown,” said Dixon. “We are asking everyone who can to avoid the area those first few days. And if they can’t, we are asking motorists to allow plenty of travel time and to have patience.”
Dixon said she expects both northbound and southbound traffic to be affected.
“We’re told there are about 3,000 parking spaces at the casino,” she said. “Overflow parking will be available at the old Food World parking lot and the city’s softball complex on Coosa River Parkway. The casino will run shuttles from those.”
Dixon said the flow of traffic will be controlled by the traffic signals, but officers will monitor the entrance areas.
“If we can we are going to let the lights do their work,” she said. “I think one of the problems will happen once the casino parking areas fill up and people are still trying to go in.
“The casino will have staff to direct those people to the off-site places. Police and the casino staff will also be monitoring the situation to make sure the overflow doesn’t spill over into the River Oaks neighborhood.”
Dixon said the limited access points off U.S. 231 (Love Lane and River Oaks Boulevard) are also a problem.
“We will be doing all we can to smooth this out, but there are only two veins going into and out of the casino and 231 is the only way to get to those,” she said. “We are going to do the best we can.”
The current gaming floor will close to business Sunday night and both operations will be silent all day Monday. The new casino will open at noon Tuesday.
“The casino management wanted to avoid opening during the morning or evening rush hours, but there will still be a lot of traffic involved,” Dixon said.