An elevated pedestrian walkway through the casino corridor will be among five options considered for a proposed Loop Road project following a Friday decision by the Tahoe Transportation District.
The TTD’s Board of Directors selected which options for the long-discussed project will undergo environmental review, while also voting to make what has become known as the Triangle Alternative its preferred option for the Loop Road, seen by some as key to the South Shore’s future.
The Triangle Alternative would use city-owned vacant lots west of 7-Eleven as part of a highway realignment that would reroute traffic behind The Village Center, Heavenly Village, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, while narrowing the existing highway through the casinos and making a local main street.
A separate alternative approved for review Friday, known as the Triangle One-Way alternative, is similar, but would turn the existing highway through the casinos into one-way eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic would be routed behind the casinos and Heavenly Village as part of an effort to reduce the project’s overall footprint.
Despite protests by South Lake Tahoe City Council members, the board kept alive a modified version of Alternative 2, which would still route the highway behind Heavenly Village and the casinos, but would move the intersection east and would require buildings containing businesses like Naked Fish and Tahoe Bottle Shop to be demolished.
City Councilwoman and TTD board member Angela Swanson was the lone vote against the five options. She said she voted against the five options because they included the alternative that has drawn repeated criticism from council members. Swanson said she would have voted yes if Alternative 2 was removed from the options considered for environmental review.
Planners said they wanted to keep the alternative in the review process to provide a range of options for comparison.
The pedestrian walkway option was also included to provide a variety of options. The version of the project, known as the “Skywalk” alternative, would include an elevated concrete pedestrian mall from near the state line to Horizon Casino Resort and MontBleu, according to a TTD staff report.
“Aesthetic treatments would be applied to the concrete deck structure and landscaping, street furniture, and other amenities would be provided for on the ‘Skywalk,’” according to the report. “At grade access to the ‘Skywalk’ would be provided by stairs, escalators, and/or elevators at locations along the alignment to provide both ambulatory and Americans with Disability Act access. With this alternative, US 50 would remain in its current configuration requiring little to no right of way acquisition.”
The option was included following a request by the City Council to have a version requiring minimal right-of-way acquisition. The fifth option to be analyzed in the environmental document would keep the area as it is today.
“The point is we study them all,” board chairman Steve Teshara said.
The goals of the project include making what is now a highway through the casino corridor more pedestrian and bike friendly. Proponents envision the project as a way for South Lake Tahoe and Stateline to reinvent themselves and regain flagging tourist market share. Several opponents of the project said they are pleased with modifications that have been made to the proposals.
Following Friday’s vote, the Loop Road project will enter a lengthy environmental review process. The process is expected to include additional details about the possible relocation of residences and businesses, as well as additional financial analysis.
A draft environmental study is currently scheduled for release in January 2015, with government approvals possible in July 2016. The project timeline does not show construction of the project until the summer of 2018.
“We’re just coming around the first turn, really,” TTD Transportation Projects Manager Alfred Knotts said.