Jamul Indian Village and Penn National Gaming on January 10 announced that ground is being broken on a $360-million casino in Jamul even though ongoing controversy culminated in a lawsuit challenging the tribe's existence.
The project is moving forward after the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) approved a Transportation Management Plan and issued an Encroachment Permit to allow construction traffic on State Route 94, the primary access road for many of the rural community's 6300 residents.
"We specifically planned for our hauling operations to travel to the southeast and away from the businesses and neighborhoods in Jamul to minimize any potential impact on the community," said tribe chairman Raymond Hunter in a release, which goes on to tout a "commitment to working with all public agencies to minimize any off-reservation impacts related to the facility."
That does little to reassure the Jamul Action Committee, which prominently states the goal of "No casino, not now, not ever!" on its home page. The group has expressed concerns over the size of the development and the impact it would have on the character of the community, noise and light pollution…but the most prominent concern pertains to the expected spike in traffic on SR-94 that the casino would bring.
"SR-94 is rated an ‘F’ in Caltrans classification, the worst. [There are] too many accidents and deaths to be ignored," Jamul Action Committee member Lisa Darroch said in an interview, though "that is exactly what Caltrans did by approving the [Transportation Management Plan] and Encroachment Permit."
Darroch also says that a committee lawsuit against Caltrans alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act is forthcoming. Meanwhile, the suit filed last year challenging tribal status, the latest in a series dating back to at least 1995, is still in the discovery phase. The first hearing is scheduled for January 23.