East County residents got to weigh in Wednesday on a Caltrans plan to fix traffic tie-ups in their area, caused by a new casino under construction in Jamul.
At State Route 94 and Steel Canyon Road, drivers see new asphalt, painted lines and signs. It is only the beginning of a larger road project designed to ease traffic congestion anticipated with next year's opening of Hollywood Casino Jamul just down the road.
Neighbors question what the road project is really benefitting.
Longtime Jamul resident Nancy Murrell lives on Vista Sage Lane, off SR-94 between Steel Canyon and Lyons Valley Road. She said even with current traffic levels, turning onto her street is a bigger gamble than Hollywood casino Jamul will offer.
“You're scared for your life when you are coming down the hill. I have to make a left-hand turn. I sure hope nobody rear ends me,” Murrell said.
At Caltrans’ open house Wednesday night, the road improvement plan was illustrated in poster-size photos. Murrell was disappointed to see her turn lane did not make the cut.
“The fixing of the roads is to fix it for their benefit,” Murrell said.
Caltrans District 11 Deputy Director Bill Figge said the plan includes more turn lanes, lights at intersections and signage.
But the improvements, paid for by Casino developers, are meant to ease traffic congestion caused by casino visitors.
“The rest of the road is basically absorbing that traffic, and if it hasn't been identified as having an issue, it's capable of handling that traffic,” Figge said.
The feud between residents and the Jamul Indian Village of California is long-standing.
The tribe broke ground on the Hollywood Casino last January. Currently, three of the 20 lawsuits filed against the project remain active in federal and state courts, despite the advanced stage of construction.
So at the meeting, the Caltrans road improvement plan got some poor reviews.
“It will help divert some of the traffic at the site, but beyond that, it's going to bottleneck traffic far back,” resident Dave Nordberg said.
Even though Caltrans organizers wanted to separate the casino from the road improvement open house, opponents didn't miss an opportunity to say Hollywood is not their home.
Caltrans representatives said they will consider changes to the road improvement plan and are accepting public input through Aug. 27. Construction is expected to be completed next year.