CALTRANS RESPONDS TO FLOOD CONCERNS ON HIGHWAY 94

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By Miriam Raftery

Photos: File photos of prior flooding at Highway 94 near Jamul Estates, where ECM has documented flooding complaints since at least 2011.

January 5, 2019 (Jamul) — A deluge on December 6th caused a creek along State Route 94  to overflow between the Jamul Casino and the entrance to Jamul Estates, causing flooding that resulted in cars trapped in rushing water and long delays for other motorists.

Jan Hedlun, a member of the Potrero Planning Group who was driving on 94 during the flooding,  told ECM that she saw traffic backing up and lights flashing at the Melody Road intersection, where “ a Caltrans vehicle was maneuvering itself to block the eastbound traffic—and doing a poor job of it…He left room for westbound traffic to continue into town but after about ten minutes of waiting, eastbound traffic began to turn right on to Melody Road.”  Hedlund says the Caltrans worker ignored her efforts to speak with him and motioned for her to turn onto an unfamiliar roadway. She made a U-turn on Melody and came back to the Melody/94 intersection.

“As I neared the flooded area there was a line of cars on both sides of the flooding. The eastbound side, at the creek, was blocked by a vehicle with blue/red flashing lights. I pulled up behind approximately 25 cars, and on the westbound side saw the line of headlights snaked well past the Jamul Estates entrance,” she reported via email, adding,.  “Note: when I was safely home and reading emails a friend, who monitors CHP/law enforcement radio sites, shared that there were three cars stranded in the rushing water at the Hwy 94 and one car stranded in 4 feet of water where the now combined Dulzura Creek/Jamul Creek crosses Otay Lakes Road at Pio Pico Park.”

Hedlun says after waiting a few more minutes in line, she made another u-turn and headed back toward Lyons Valley Road, as traffic backed up even further. Turning on AM 600, she heard a caller stuck in the same line state that traffic was backed up already past the 7-11 at Steel Canyon Road.

“The woman on AM 600 voiced the same concerns I had,” Hedlun states in her email. “There was no CHP officer(s)/vehicle(s) in attendance by the Caltrans block 45 minutes after they closed the highway. There was no one was directing traffic or telling stranded travelers to turn around and find another way home as there has been during prior events. No signs were being posted to prevent people from coming down Highway 94.”

An hour into the nightmare commute, Hedlun says she reached the Honey Springs Road/Highway 94 turn, yet there was still no sign posted to warn motorists not to drive into the flooded area. Despite a border checkpoint less than a half mile away, she adds, “They did not appear to have been enlisted to place signs or block the way. There was no one routing traffic safely on either side of the blockage. The Caltrans fellow just sat in his truck rather than get out and flag us in the appropriate direction. There was nothing reported by the CHP/Caltrans on the radio until approximately 45 minutes after I turned around to take an alternate route; a common problem for our neck of the woods.

She voiced surprise that after numerous past flooding incidents, there was still apparently no plan in place for the two areas that repeatedly flood during heavy rains: Highway 94 between Jamul Casino and Jamul Estates, and also Otay Lakes Road near Pio Pico RV Park.

“Highway 94 and Otay Lakes Road are the primary ingress/egress routes, both known to flood when the rains are significant. We have a pending El Nino and this will occur again. I want to know, after so many other times this area has flooded, why Cal Trans and the CHP weren't better prepared to set up their roadblock, inform the stranded traffic, and route us safely on our way home? Was there a plan in place to handle this and, if so, who dropped the ball?” She adds, “Why has the local government ignored this ongoing/continuing/recurring problem? Was this addressed when the Jamul Casino was improving the roadways? Has any action ever been taken on this? Why hasn't funding been allocated to fix these two areas?”

ECM contacted the California Highway Patrol, Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office and Caltrans.

CHP public information officer Travis Garrow sent this response:  “I will forward this info to our new Community Outreach Officer. His name is Officer Crossland and he has been dealing with many of these issues as of late.”

A staffer for Supervisor Dianne Jacob responded, “I’m told Caltrans has acknowledged its responsibility and that it planned to reach out to you. Thanks.”

Caltrans spokesman Ed Joyce responded: “Safety is Caltrans #1 priority and Caltrans will assess conditions to determine what improvements can be made to address the condition described in that area of State Route 94,” he stated. “Caltrans coordinates with San Diego County, the California Highway Patrol and other state, county and local agencies to communicate real-time information on conditions.”

He observed, “During active situations, such as heavy rainstorm events, that information is communicated quickly via Twitter rather than news releases sent by email. (As you know, @SDCaltrans also sends out regular tweets about incidents affecting roadways 24/7.) We also appreciate your @EastCountyAlert efforts in relaying traffic incidents on Twitter!”

 

Comments

It's not just a sign at the site, Tom.

People are mad that they're not advised via a sign before getting on this highway, driving 30 or 45 minutes, only to learn they have to turn around.  Some are having commutes delayed an hour or more. Jan drives from San Diego to Potrero daily. If she knew ahead of time that 94 was blocked, she could take 8 out toward Campo, past Potrero and go home that route which is subatantially longer.

And of course with a casino there, and a high school, there are plenty of young drivers and drivers unfamiliar with the roads who don't have experience driving maybe in wet weather on rural roads.  They may not be able to tell how deep the water is or realize that's actually a creek running across the low-point in the highway.  They should build a bridge over the low-point long term, or something, but until then better notice would help. They haven't even sent tweets to alert media. We could help let people on our alert list know, but right now we rely mostly on the public to tell us about that area as neither the CHP nor Caltrans has any official notification in place that's used regularly for that particular area. They do much better when a storm shuts down, say, a raodway in Mission Valley. Why are rural folks treated with less respect?

 

Official Responses

Every response from the "public safety" organizations sound like a canned answer, a form letter reply. "We are aware of the problem and will..." blah, blah , blah. They have to protect people, even the stupid ones who will drive into a flowing river, by placing signs and an officer at the site.

I can go to the NWS current radar images to see where and how much rain (or snow) is falling.

https://radar.weather.gov/radar.php?rid=NKX&product=NCR&overlay=11101111...