News Release


DATE: October 8, 2003

CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108


Jacob, residents lobbied for barrier to halt wrong-way drivers

PINE VALLEY - People who drive a dangerous stretch of Interstate 8 in East County are breathing a sigh of relief today after CalTrans announced plans to install an emergency barrier along the center median to keep illegal immigrant smugglers from driving the wrong-way along the highway.

The decision to erect the barrier comes less than two weeks after angry residents and County Supervisor Dianne Jacob staged a rally at the Buckman Springs on-ramp to Interstate 8 to urge Caltrans to address an increase in wrong-way driver crashes between Pine Valley and Buckman Springs over the last year.

"This is life-saving news for area residents and the U.S. Border Patrol who have been asking for this simple and low-tech barrier for more than a year," Jacob said. "Wrong-way drivers have been terrorizing this stretch of highway- killing and injuring loved ones- for too long," she said. "The barrier should be the beginning of greater attention paid to this problem," Jacob said.

According to California Highway Patrol officials, illegal immigrant smugglers try to skirt the Border Patrol checkpoint just east of Pine Valley by crossing over into eastbound traffic and driving the wrong way along Interstate 8. Smugglers frequently turn off their headlights and drive the wrong-way up Interstate off-ramps or barrel down the steep median, head-on into oncoming traffic.

In addition to the barrier, Jacob said she is pleased with CalTrans' decision to install permanent lighting to the eastbound lanes near the checkpoint to help motorists stay on alert for wrong-way drivers.

She urged CalTrans to step-up additional measures designed to thwart wrong-way drivers such as wrong-way spike strips and lighting.

"The barrier will work to keep wrong-way drivers from crossing the median, but we need additional action to keep smugglers from endangering the lives of innocent people," Jacob said.