What is typically a 15-minute commute turned into a two-hour drive for some on Monday as the grand opening of the Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego combined with road construction caused what some residents in the East County called extreme safety hazards on State Route 94 in California.
Several crashes were reported by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) along State Route 94 during the casino’s long-awaited opening day, according to a CBS 8 San Diego report.
Motorists were warned by the CHP of heavy traffic on State Route 94, as well as State Route 54 junction, and the stretch of highway between State Route 125 and Honey Springs Road, as reported by NBC 7. The congestion extended for several miles in all directions and in an attempt to alleviate the traffic CHP officers were dispatched. An advisory was issued to drivers by the law enforcement agency that Campo Road should be avoided for the next six to eight hours, according to the news agency.
A tweet was sent out to students of Steele Canyon High School, which is located near the new casino, warning them and the school’s staff of the traffic. Don Hohimer, the principal, said that the high school was heavily impacted by Hollywood Casino Jamul’s opening, making an already challenging AM commute, worse. Hohimer said that on Monday morning, school busses could not access the school due to the severity of the traffic. He told the news agency, “We’ve known this was coming for a long time and did everything we can to keep our young drivers safe.”
Critics of the $400 million Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, that is located approximately 20 miles east of downtown San Diego, say that despite the creation of thousands of jobs, the traffic troubles on its opening day prove why they will maintain their efforts to close its doors. For years, the 200,000 square foot casino has been the subject of the battle between the Jamul Action Committee (JAC) and the Jamul Indian Village (JIV) of California, with former filing a lawsuit against the casino in an attempt to prevent its opening. The new casino on Campo Road in Jamul is located on a rural, winding, two-lane stretch of state Route 94, which residents say is a death trap. Anticipating a substantial increase in traffic, as well as impaired drivers, residents said prior to the casino’s opening that an already bad situation would become worse when it opens.
In April, with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob dissenting, the Board of Supervisors approved a formal agreement between the JIV and the county. While the casino is located on tribal land, a majority of the property surrounding it, as well as some of the access to the reservation, belongs to the county, and Caltrans governs the highway. Glenn Revell, the president of the JAC, says that the suit alleges that the JIV is not a federally recognized tribe and that the facility in its entirety is not built on reservation land, according to the report. The JAC has an appeal pending with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; however, a ruling on the federal lawsuits is expected to take at least six months.
In August, a 25-year tribal-state gaming compact between the JIV and the state was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown, which set the terms of operation for the three-story facility. The gaming venue is home to more than 1,700 slots and video poker machines, 43 live table games, along with eight dining and entertainment venues and an eight-story below-ground parking garage that accommodates 1,800 vehicles.