Artist's rendering of proposed casino
  • Artist's rendering of proposed casino
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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.

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Visduh Jan. 13, 2014 @ 9:57 a.m.

This is all too familiar because much the same sort of thing, minus the local protests, happened when Pala and Pauma constructed their casinos and hotels. Both of them are accessed from Highway 76, east of I-15, up a highway that was never designed or intended for either high volumes of traffic, or high speed traffic. That highway follows the San Luis Rey River up through a twisting and meandering valley that has some very narrow spots. As a result it had, and still has, some curves that require showing to about 20 mph. Yet when those "sovereign" tribal groups decided to build their casinos, nobody seemed willing to insist that they pay to massively upgrade the highway. Instead they went ahead with them, and the road was scarcely modified at all. Result: Many, many car crashes, some with fatalities, and often involving alcohol. Do we ever learn? Finally, in the past few years, Caltrans has made some improvements to a few spots along that highway, and the tribes actually made a financial contribution. BUT, their funding was only a small fraction of the cost. If they had been obliged to pay their way with adequate infrastructure, those tribes would be much less rich now, and perhaps casino gambling would be much less popular and prevalent in the county.

I know Highway 94 from about thirty years ago when, while living in eastern San Diego, I'd make shopping trips to Tecate every few weeks. Even then, it was about as busy with traffic as it should have ever been. I can only imagine, with all the residential growth in Jamul, plus the addition of a high school not far off the highway, etc., just how overloaded it is. Again, my most recent trip out that way revealed some improvements, but the basic highway is just about the same as it was years ago. The whole thing deserves a failing grade, and has for a long time!

The state seems to have money to do wonderful highway upgrades in some out-of-the-way spots, yet in some high traffic areas, does nothing or virtually nothing to upgrade roads that are handling massive amounts of traffic. Highway 94 out through Jamul is a prime example. Actually it needs and deserves upgrading all the way out to the junction with Highway 188, the road that goes south to Tecate.

Once again, a tribe will build a casino complex, albeit a small one to start, and start getting rich on the backs of the motoring public and its neighbors.


jnojr Jan. 13, 2014 @ 3:31 p.m.

Well, you can't grudgingly allow casinos only in the most remote, inaccessible places but then make those places less remote and inaccessible. If we were to legalize gaming, nobody would need to drive way out in the sticks to do it. But no… we decided to stick the Indians way out in the hinterlands, and then start to grump when they build their casinos out there instead of closer in. You want it both ways, and you can't have it both ways.

Nobody is forced to drive those windy mountain roads. I drove a straight truck along 94 for a while, among other oddball places. I won't be hauling my rear out to Jamul to gamble. Harrah's Rincon is wild enough for me. But if I decide that the risk of death in a fiery, drunken crash isn't worth the trip, I don't have to go.

People like to gamble. Either accept that and let them do it safely, or try to stop them and accept that they're going to ignore you and avoid you and maybe some bad things are going to happen.


CaptainObvious Jan. 14, 2014 @ 2:21 p.m.

If you build them, stupid people will come.


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