LTVA board votes to keep highway open for future events after weekend gridlock
June 26, 2008
After last Saturday’s traffic fiasco during Opening Days Lake Tahoe, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Board took drastic action Thursday: From now on, it ruled, Highway 50 will stay open.
“The reality is we’re not going to do this again, so we’re not going to beat it up anymore,” said LTVA Board Chairman Patrick Ronan.
Board members reviewed the event at their meeting Thursday. This was the fourth year Opening Days has occurred, but only the second year that the event closed Highway 50 through the casino corridor. This closure caused gridlock traffic that resulted in backups from Al Tahoe Boulevard in California to near Zephyr Cove in Nevada, with delays of two to three hours reported.
The board lost credibility, Ronan said, after it assured the community that traffic problems would be alleviated after last year’s similar problems. The South Shore doesn’t have the infrastructure to fix the traffic problems without building more roads, he noted.
All board members agreed.
“Never, ever, ever will we talk about closing Highway 50,” said LTVA board member John Koster.
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LTVA President Carol Chaplin said she has directed staff to reinvent Opening Days, which attracted more than 15,000 people. Ronan said attendance nearly quadrupled last year’s total.
Sidestreet Boutique owner Barbara Parina said she lost $16,000 in business last year because Highway 50 was closed, and this year wasn’t any different.
“When it costs me a great deal of money, and my customers are telling me they’re never coming back to Tahoe – we don’t need that,” Parina said.
She was one of two people who addressed the board about last Saturday’s traffic jam.
Parina recommended that the board host a meeting for residents to gather input on what types of events would work for them. The Harveys Outdoor Summer Concert Series, for instance, helps Sidestreet Boutique, because it brings foot traffic to her store.
Even though the event was successful for some business, it must benefit everyone, said board member Blaise Carrig.
Carrig noted that the event was supposed to occur during the South Shore’s shoulder season, thus bringing visitors to the area.
“It’s supposed to create business, not add on to a busy time,” Carrig said.
The reinvention of Opening Days Lake Tahoe will be discussed at the LTVA board retreat July 31.