All agree a rest stop on Highway 50 would be nice
U.S. Highway 50 is the only Sierra pass without a rest stop.
The businesses along the corridor have taken abuse from travelers who have no choice but to try to use privately owned bathrooms or do their business on the side of the road.
“We have days where we have (rest room) lines, but we have a policy not to turn people away. We try to see it from their shoes,” said Bill Carey, owner of St. Pauli Inn. “It’s a decent thing to do.”
Expensive septic tanks are the only waste disposal option available along the highly traveled route. According to Carey, every month their tank is pumped and costs an estimated $2,500 to $5,000 per year. He added that a rest area facility would cut that figure in half.
Carey doesn’t think a rest stop project has the high priority it deserves.
Owners of Strawberry Lodge witness hours of traffic congestion when chain controls go into effect and every Sunday when lake visitors make the trek back home.
“I would love to see a rest stop,” said Kendra Ussery, owner of the lodge, adding that she would like to see a facility accessible at night and maintained by Caltrans.
“It’s crazy,” said Ray Nutting, El Dorado County 2nd District Supervisor.
Nutting said he has been trying to get a rest stop on the highway since he campaigned in 1992. Residents living between Pollock Pines and Meyers told him their No. 1 issue was the lack of such a facility.
“We have one of the most scenic, spectacular corridors in the United States and no rest stop on it,” Nutting said.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution last Tuesday to reopen and update efforts for a rest area on U.S. Highway 50. Twenty-two California counties have supported El Dorado’s push for a rest stop.
“We agree with the resolution,” said Laura Featherstone, a spokesperson for Caltrans, but she wondered if it will help.
Featherstone said that a Caltrans report, made in the early 1990s, was eventually dropped when a partner could not be found to help fund it.
“We’ll buy the land and we’ll build the facility, but we need someone to maintain it,” she said. “(The resolution) is saying to us that maybe there will be some interest (from potential partners).”
Nutting urged that the 20-year quest for a rest stop/rest room facility located between Pollock Pines and Meyers be reactivated.
“What I envision is just a quaint pull-off,” he said.
South Shore community members expressed their desires for a rest stop at a Jan. 19 South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce luncheon. They felt that a rest stop was necessary for the well-being of visitors coming into the Tahoe Basin.
Irene Itamura, Caltrans District 3 executive director, was a featured speaker at the event.
She said an expensive preliminary study conducted for a rest stop at Twin Bridges revealed the facility was not economically feasible.
“It is a problem and we need to have some kind of rest area along 50,” Itamura said at the meeting.
She also said rest areas would cost millions to build, and once built would be expensive to maintain. Caltrans is working with the U.S. Forest Service for additional help on the matter, she said.
Duane Wallace, chamber executive director, agreed that residents and tourists have their bladders severely tested when they come from neighboring cities like Sacramento and San Francisco.
“It’s desperately needed,” Wallace said. “I think the Twin Bridges place is perfect.”
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