TRUCKEE, Calif. - With an eye toward safety, the town is looking to purchase a portion of Highway 89 land needed to move forward with constructing a pedestrian and cyclist tunnel near the Mousehole undercrossing.
On Tuesday, Truckee Town Council gave staff the go ahead to negotiate with Union Pacific Railroad Company, which owns the 4,992-square-foot piece of property, said Dan Wilkins, the town's public works director and engineer.
A recent appraisal done by Sierra West Valuation determined the property is worth $2,500, according to town documents. The town will send a copy of the appraisal to Union Pacific within a week, Wilkins said Thursday. From there, negotiations will begin, depending on if Union Pacific accepts the appraisal or wants to do its own.
Caltrans would also need to approve the property purchase, which would essentially widen the existing Caltrans-owned Highway 89 easement to include the footprint of the mini Mousehole - a town-proposed 12-foot wide tunnel with a 10-foot wide asphalt paved bike and pedestrian path east of the Mousehole.
"Our primary interest here is pedestrian and bicycle safety," said Town Manager Tony Lashbrook.
Safety is also a concern of Union Pacific, according to previous reports, in terms of the track above potentially caving in during tunnel construction, thus harming construction crews and damaging trains. Project design by the town would address those concerns, Lashbrook said.
"It's an absolutely rational concern, and it is up to us to make sure that is handled," he said.
Final project design is about 95 percent complete, said Becky Bucar, an associate engineer for the town. Both Union Pacific and Caltrans will have to sign off on the final design, she said.
"We have a good relationship with the (town) of Truckee, and we are optimistic their final plan will allow us to maintain the safety focus that is so important to us at Union Pacific Railroad," said Aaron Hunt, director of corporate relations and media for the railroad company's western region.
Caltrans Project Manager Winder Bajwa said the agency would examine the final design, looking mainly to see if the proposed tunnel is up to current highway standards.
The total cost estimate for the project is about $11 million, with $8.2 million to $8.5 million going toward tunnel construction, and the remainder going toward environmental studies, right-of-way permits and project design, among other items, Bucar said.
Funding for the project would come from a mix of federal, state and local dollars, Bucar said. Caltrans would supply $4.4 million, Bajwa said.
The town still needs approximately $1.5 million in state funding, Bucar said. Funding that won't likely be secured until the 2014-15 fiscal year, Lashbrook said.
The project cannot be put out to bid or construction started until all funding is in place, Bucar said.
Once construction begins - which could happen as early as 2015 - Bucar said it will most likely take two construction seasons to complete the tunnel.
As far as facility maintenance, the town would, in general, maintain the pedestrian and bicycle facilities, with Caltrans continuing to maintain highway facilities, according town documents.