Data from the California Highway Patrol shows there have been more traffic accidents, including those involving DUI’s, on Highway 94 near Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, since the casino opened in October 2016 than there has been each year on average since 2000.
“We're on a record pace for the number of collisions and serving alcohol in the mix has not helped,” San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.
From the beginning, she and others have been outspoken critics of the casino. Their concerns, then and now, are focused on road safety issues and the issuance of a permit to serve alcohol.
According to data from CHP, on an 11-mile-stretch of Highway 94 that includes the casino, there were 99 traffic collisions between Avocado Boulevard and Otay Lakes Road during the casino's first seven months in operation. Since the year 2000, the data shows, the two-lane highway has seen an average of 92 collisions a year with the highest being 136 and the lowest being 65.
Since 2000, there was an average of eight DUI-related accidents per year. During the casino's first seven months in operation, there have been 13 DUI-related collisions, according to the data.
Click here to see the interactive infographic below in a new window.
“Can I put all of that on the casino?” community activist Glenn Revell, who opposes the casino, asked. “I can’t tell you for sure. What I can tell you, the added traffic coupled with drinking appears to be on a pace to far exceed anything we've seen in the past.”
Jacob said she thinks there is a connection.
“Connect the dots, nothing else has changed,” she said. “The only thing that has changed along this two-lane-dangerous road is that casino and alcohol.”
In receiving the green light to move forward with the casino project, the Jamul Indian Village agreed to spend more than $23 million to improve roads. A spokesperson for Caltrans told NBC 7 Investigates that phase one of the road improvements will be finished Friday, phase two could begin in 2018 depending upon acquisition of a right of way and, in addition, a series of off-site access improvements will be completed.
Click here to learn more about the road improvement projects.
NBC 7 Investigates also has learned, in August, an Administrative Law Judge is scheduled to hear arguments about the impacts of the casino on Jamul residents and businesses. A decision on whether the casino should be given a permanent liquor license is expected to follow.
The Chairwoman for the Jamul Indian Village, Erica Pinto, released a statement to NBC 7 Investigates and said, “We take very seriously responsible alcohol service at the casino and have extensive employee training ... In addition, we are not aware of any DUI incidents involving our casino patrons.”
Jacob and Revell said the casino should never have opened or received an interim liquor license until the road improvements were completed.
Click here to see the interim liquor license for the casino.
“At this point, all Caltrans can do is stand out here and try to hold them accountable for the improvements they promised to make. At the very least we'd like to see that happen,” Revell said.
In her statement, Pinto said the highway has needed improvements for decades.
“We are working hard with Caltrans and other agencies to bring these much-needed improvements in safety to the community as quickly and safely as possible,” she said.
Click here to read the full statement from Pinto.
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it conducted a thorough investigation before issuing the interim liquor license and each license application is unique and considered on a case-by-case basis.
In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, a spokesperson for ABC, John Carr, said “One DUI is too many,” and the department works closely with allied agencies on prevention.
Click here to read the full response from ABC.
Jacob’s office has sent letters to Caltrans, ABC and the Jamul Indian Village informing them of the latest CHP statistics.
Click here to read the letter to the Jamul Indian Village.
Click here to read the letter to Caltrans.
Click here to read the letter to ABC.