We’re heartened by reports that casino backers are listening to South Valley concerns about their original site and are considering a new location. But let’s not get giddy.
When the plans for a Miwok Indian-owned casino were announced, many South Valley residents worried about traffic and environmental problems associated with the planned site just south of the Santa Clara County line off Highway 25, in addition to general opposition to a casino.
So, casino investors began looking around for a less troublesome location.
“After these last few months, Hwy. 25 seemed to be a sore spot with law enforcement and locals,” casino project manager Gary Ramos told reporter Serdar Tumgoren. “So we got input from several local businesses and local leaders and they said where they thought it should go, and we took that input and started mapping out a region.”
A specific site has not been settled on, but we know that it’s near the Hollister airport and about 15 miles farther from Gilroy. The new site might address environmental concerns – it’s hard to say without the precise location, which casino backers won’t reveal – but it clearly won’t reduce traffic concerns in Santa Clara or San Benito counties.
“The problem is the same thing as on Route 25 – they’ve got to find access to a major roadway,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said. He’s exactly right.
No matter where in San Benito County you place a casino, most visitors will be driving through Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin to get there. The only way for gamblers in Sunnyvale, San Mateo or San Jose to get to San Benito County is through south Santa Clara County.
No matter where in San Benito County a casino is located, the traffic impacts will be significant along the main route and, of course, in rural San Benito County.
The backers of the casino are smart; they’re showing flexibility by considering another location for their business. But we urge South Valley residents and leaders to remember that any location will have dramatic traffic impacts on our region. Before any casino is given community support, those impacts must be adequately mitigated. If not, the casino might turn local roads into a traffic nightmare, and that will result in a hot-button community issue without a reasonable solution in sight.