By Miriam Raftery
August 20, 2016 (Jamul) – Supervisor Dianne Jacob today joined with residents at a press conference to voice concerns over state actions regarding the Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego.
Jacob said the casino, slated to open soon, “will turn Highway 94 into even more of a deathtrap. We’ve seen 23 deaths and 1,100-plus collisions on this two-lane state road since 2005.” Hundreds of people have been injured in those accidents.Evacuation during a major wildfire is also a serious concern, she indicated.
Jacob called on the state to rescind an interim alcohol permit issued, to hold a public hearing, and to be sure that all critical road improvements are completed before allowing the casino to open.
”State officials need to step up, do their job and put public safety first,” the Supervisor concluded,calling the casino a "Hollywood horror show."
In at least two other casino openings locally, Barona and Sycuan, alcohol permits were not issued until after the casinos had been operational for a year or more to first assess traffic impacts. ECM has asked the state why it hasn’t followed a similar protocol here, but no response has been received.
While improvements in front of the casino have been made, other promised roadway mitigations have not yet begun, the Jamul Action Committee stated in an e-mail to community members and media. Parents are particularly upset about a lack of planned improvements near Steele Canyon High School, where multiple serious accidents have already occurred.
Glen Revell, Chairman of the Jamul Action Committee, said the casino is larger than the largest Super Walmart. Adding 9,000 more vehicles a day from anticipated casino traffic will make the road even more dangerous, he contends.
Steele Canyon High School principal Don Hohimer voiced concerns over safety of student drivers, noting the school has activities from early morning through late evening hours. He, too, wants to see mitigation projects completed.
Pastor Gary Musser from the Jamul Community Church mentioned bumper stickers reading “Pray for me, I drive Highway 94” have been around for years. Behind the statistics are people—and he has officiated over far too many funerals for people who lost loved ones, as well as visiting injured motorists at hospitals.
In an editorial published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jacob accused the casino of “asking folks to gamble with their lives.”
But the Jamul Indian Village, owner of the casino to be run by Penn National Gaming, has issued a statement saying, “The Jamul Indian Village is wholeheartedly devoted to community safety. As such, we have committed approximately $20 million toward roadway improvements identified by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and $3.7 million toward roadway improvements indentified in our Memorandum of Understanding with the County of San Diego.”
The tribe adds that it has implemented immediate mitigation efforts including a traffic signal on Highway 94 in front of the project to benefit the community and casino guests. “We are also coordinating with local law enforcement for special event traffic measures. This and other commitments to fire and life safety affirm our strong dedication to being a good neighbor and ensuring the best for our community,” the tribe’s statement concludes, but makes no mention of when additional mitigation measures will be completed.
No official grand opening date has been publicly announced, however signs posted on highway 94 alert motorists to be aware of traffic delays August22-29. The casino’s Facebook page has photos showing casino promotions on trolleys, pedicabs and at public events across the region.