October 28, 2013 (Jamul) - Could road paving work have caused last night's fatality crash on State Route 94 at Otay Lakes Road?
"Without striping on the road, very few delineation markers, and no lights during this resurfacing, it becomes virtually impossible to see where you are going or know where the road is," the Jamul Action Committee wrote in an email after the deadly crash. Moreover, two more motorists have come forward to warn of near-miss crashes including at least three near-head on collisions that they blame on missing or confusing pavement markings from the resurfacing project.
Jamul residents have been warning that the repaving work, being done both day and night with multiple stops and congestion, could endanger motorists, as ECM previously reported: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/14217 . The paving is expected to continue for months.
Tonight, one person was killed and at least two others were seriously injured and had to be extricated from the crash, which occurred at 5:44 p.m. The accident was a head-on collision involving a white truck, a black sedan and a third vehicle not described on the CHP website. CHP’s site also indicates the Medical Examiner had to travel the wrong way to reach the crash on the roadway, which had no shoulders.
Caltrans Media Relations Officer Cathryne Bruce-Johnson provided the following response when forwarded the above information.
“The fatal traffic incident on State Route 94 is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol. Early indications into the cause of the incident suggest that drinking and driving may have been involved. No highway or roadway construction site can be designed to prevent this type of dangerous behavior. Motorists and highway workers are at risk when some drivers choose to operate a vehicle in an impaired condition. We urge motorists to phone 9-1-1 if they suspect a motorists is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is the only comment we will have at this time.”
East County Magazine has learned of more near-miss collisions, and the drivers clearly blame the lack of pavement markings.
“Same thing almost happened to me last Tuesday night about 6:30 p.m.,” writes Michael Casinelli in an email sent to JAC members and ECM. “Attempting to turn onto Lyons Valley Road from SR 94 in front of Marcia’s office, I was stuck in the left turn lane (no striping or reflectors), and could not turn left or pull back into east bound traffic. A west bound car was heading directly at me and never reduced his speed, and only diverted back into the west bound lane about 10 yards before an impact. It was extremely scary. In a matter of seconds I though I was going to be in a head-on and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Marcia Spurgeon, a local real estate agent, reveals yet more near misses. "I am contacting Granite and Caltrans today to report this hazardous
situation," she wrote in response to Casinelli's disclosure. "Three times this past week while traveling west to my office I have witnessed near misses at the intersection as a west bound car enters the east bound turn lane. I think the way they have marked the road drivers think it is
a third lane going down the hill. Two of the three would have resulted in head on crashes if the east bound drivers had not swerved over to the edge of the road. Fortunately there was no traffic along side. This was all during the day. Can't imagine when the roads are wet and dark."
"Caltrans, do you want another one? Because it will happen again," JAC contends after the fatality last night.
Caltrans failed to notify residents before starting the long-term paving project.
The agency issued an apology for that delay, stating merely that projects "got out ahead" of public relations.
But that's not enough to satisfy concerned residents who have already seen traffic increase significantly on State Route 94 with addition of Steele Canyon High School, and who have voiced fears additional traffic hazards if the proposed Jamul Indian casino is built.
An e-mail sent to JAC members last week chided Caltrans for its apology, noting, "The Caltrans press release states the Granite Construction Project will be completed in one year and the Hazard Construction Project will be completed at the end of this year. Caltrans awarded the 54/94 Junction to Marron Valley Rd Re-Surfacing on July 31, 2013.Caltrans awarded the Marron Valley Rd to SR-188 Slurry Seal on June 6, 2013."
The group wants answers from Caltrans to key questions, including:
The decision to start both projects at the same time was whose?
The decision to start both projects during the wildfire season was whose?
The decision to start both projects without public notification was whose?
The decision to start both projects without notifying the business' along SR-94 was whose?
The decision to start both projects without notifying the school districts whose buses use SR-94 to pick up and drop off children along SR-94 was whose?
The decision to start both projects without adequate warning signage along the route was whose?
The decision to start both projects without adequate flag personnel presence was whose?
The decision to start both projects without notifying the residents along SR-94 was whose?
The decision to start both projects without notifying Rural Fire was whose?
The decision to start both projects without notifying Cal Fire was whose?
The decision to start both projects during controlled burns was whose?
The decision to start both projects and completely cutting off the only access route in case of evacuation was whose?
The decision to start both projects stating that work can only be done during the day but there are night closures reported on the CHP traffic website and motorists are unable to get home late at night or get to work was whose?
It appears that Caltrans is selective in adhering to its own protocol, particularly when dealing with Jamul.
Most importantly, residents ask, "Why did Caltrans schedule this work during the annual wildfire season; knowing that it would choke, if not halt, traffic flow on our only evacuation corridor?" Finally, safety-minded residents ask how CalTrans and other public agencies could "have such disregard for our public safety on so many levels."