SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Caltrans has launched Way2Tahoe.com to inform visitors of the Highway 50 closure slated to begin as early as April 15 and alternate routes to South Lake Tahoe.
The website will also provide local businesses with a resource to encourage travelers to come to Tahoe, despite the closure, by allowing them to post specials or discounts.
"This is a very big project," said Deanna Shoopman, a spokeswoman for CalTrans. "We're closing Highway 50 for two weeks. We have to make sure the traveling public is aware."
The website features maps and information about alternate routes, a section for project updates and a section for South Lake Tahoe businesses and events. As the project nears, CalTrans will advertise information through radio, television, text message, newspaper and electronic billboards.
Two official detours have been announced. Highway 50 motorists en route to South Lake Tahoe will be rerouted to Highway 16 out of Sacramento, Calif. to Highway 49 and then onto Highways 88 and 89. Travelers closer to Placerville, Calif. will be directed onto Highway 49 which will lead them to Highway 88.
Highway 50 and businesses along it will remain open up to the point of closure.
Travelers should plan for an extra hour of travel time to Tahoe, according to a statement released by CalTrans.
Construction will include new guardrails and a 3-foot-high cement barrier in place of the crumbling 18-inch-tall rock and sandbag roadside wall, which was built in the 1930s. A stabilizing slab will be placed under the roadway and masonry along the support wall will be upgraded.
CalTrans will provide monetary incentives for the contractor to end the closure early and fines for extending it. One lane of the Highway 50 stretch will remain closed for up to six weeks after the full closure.
CalTrans chose April 15 as a start date because they believed it would have the least impact on tourism and because the window does not coincide with fire season, Shoopman said.
Highway 50 will be open for Memorial Day weekend.
The closure will have an economic impact on South Shore businesses, said Betty "B" Gorman, president of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.
Gorman met with California state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, Caltrans and C.C. Myers Inc., the company that has been awarded the contract for the $3 million project, to urge that the dates of the closure avoid Easter weekend, April 23-24.
"The unfortunate challenge here is that the business community asked for this project to be done in late April and CalTrans put this contract out for April 15," Gorman said.
The ideal situation would be for the closure to begin April 25 and be finished within 10 days, she said.
The exact dates of the closure are weather dependent. C.C. Myers Inc. needs 10-14 days of fair weather forecasted before they can close the highway.
CalTrans cannot modify the contract once it's been awarded. Beth Ruyak, a spokeswoman for C.C. Myers, would not comment on whether or not they would move the start date of construction back to align with business interests in the basin. C.C. Myers will work in partnership with CalTrans to decide when to start, she added. The construction will begin at the soonest possible date after April 15, according to CalTrans.
The chamber is focused on how businesses can take advantage of the spotlight that's being put on the closure, Gorman said.
"We want people to understand there's a way to capitalize on the publicity and utilize this in a positive light," she said.
Businesses that want to post on Way2Tahoe.com can contact the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.