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Pala Motocross event leads to significant traffic impact on State Route 76

Cars were virtually parked on State Route 76, Old Highway 395, and Interstate 15 when the Pala Raceway hosted the Pala Motocross National on Saturday, Sept. 11.

While fans of the American Motocross Association event were willing to park five miles away and walk to the event, local residents and drivers trying to get through the traffic to other destinations were less than happy about the snarled-up traffic.

“I have never seen so many cars. The gridlock was horrendous,” said Frank Biddle, a Village News reader who lives in Oceanside. “I went east on 76 at 9 a.m. I turned around with Pala in sight. It was horrible; I didn't know what was going on. You can imagine [what would happen] if there were a need to evacuate.”

Drivers stuck in traffic say it took an hour and a half to get from River Village in Bonsall (SR76 and South Mission Road) to the Interstate 15 onramp.

The California Highway Patrol was called onto the scene to help direct traffic, which affected roadway travel from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. that day.

“Traffic was backed up onto the 76 eastbound from Oceanside’s city limits,” said California Highway Patrol Officer L. Sergent. “People heading east were stuck in traffic for up to three hours. ”

According to parishioners of the Pala mission, San Antonio de Pala, two weddings that were scheduled that day at the facility were severely impacted by the traffic.

“There was supposed to be a wedding at 11 a.m. and a wedding at 2 p.m.,” said one parishioner. “The 11 a.m. wedding was canceled because the wedding guests couldn’t make it on time.”

“There was a constant flow of traffic,” said Sergent. “We had one fender bender, but primarily the traffic was caused by the raceway. People were parking on the SR76 shoulder – where they shouldn’t have been parking – and walking to the raceway. Others would get on their dirt bikes and ride to the raceway.”

Eight CHP officers had to be dispatched to deal with the traffic impact from the event, along with a private traffic control company that had been hired by the event coordinators.

“The problem was that there were only two lanes to get to the raceway, with one to get into the raceway,” said Sergent. “Throughout the day, there were thousands of cars on the SR76. They were expecting 25,000 people to show up to the event, but there were easily triple that many that attended.”

One local resident who had made a trip to a grocery store for her weekly food shopping was so severely impacted by the traffic she was concerned the frozen food she had purchased was going to melt and spoil as she waited in traffic.

“Roads in Rainbow were backed up; Old Highway 395 was impacted; and there was an enormous line outside of Nessy Burger,” she said. “I wish I had bottles of water and drinks in my car, or had been able to set up a lemonade stand [near my home]; I would have been able to retire.”

Employees at the nearby Pala Casino were caught in the traffic as well, though the number of employees and patrons that were impacted by the traffic is unknown.

Pala Casino’s Chief Executive Officer, Bill Bembenek, said he could not comment about the event “due to current discussions with MX Sports Pro Racing, the operator of Saturday's 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro MotoCross Championship.”

Robert Smith, chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, issued the following statement concerning the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship held Saturday, Sept. 11, at Pala Raceway, which is on Pala Reservation land:

“While the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was held on land that is owned by the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the raceway is operated by an independent motocross racing company, MX Sports Pro Racing of Encinitas, Calif., a subsidiary of MX MotoPark Industries, Inc. MX Sports Pro Racing is not affiliated with the Pala Band of Mission Indians or Pala Casino Spa & Resort.”

Smith declined further comment. Multiple calls and emails to MX Sports Pro Racing for comment were not returned. Sergent said he was aware that another similar event has already been scheduled for next year and said he hopes the event coordinators will work with CHP to help with traffic control for future events.

“They’re hoping to do the event next year,” said Sergent. “They hope to work out all the kinks so that next year they won’t have such an impact on traffic.”

 

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