Amendment for transportaion bill |

Amendment for transportaion bill

Greg Risling

A special designation that would bring more funding for transit projects in the Tahoe Basin was added Wednesday to a federal highway bill.

Introduced by Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Richard Bryan along with California Senator Barbara Boxer, the amendment creates a metropolitan planning organization at Lake Tahoe. The designation is usually reserved for urban areas with populations more than 50,000 but Tahoe’s unique circumstances may help push the legislation forward.

“By creating a MPO at the lake, the communities that surround it can band together to compete for federal dollars,” said Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who wrote the bill with Richard Bryan, also a Nevada senator, and California Senator Barbara Boxer.

If the bill is approved, approximately $500,000 would be devoted to operational and planning costs for transportation locally. The MPO status has recently received the hometown support of El Dorado County, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Tahoe Transportation District.

“A precedent already exists for this planning organization at the lake,” Reid said. “The business and environmental communities have been working together across the state line for several years to cut down congestion around the lake and move the millions of visitors who come to the region each year more smoothly.”

The senators’ support will add firepower to a previously losing battle in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Census Bureau opposed the status request in 1994 because the cumulative population in the Tahoe Basin was roughly 52,000. The census bureau said if Tahoe was designated an urban area it would give special treatment to similar tourist destinations in the United States.

The special designation was one of many ideas proposed as part of the presidential summit last July to generate new funding for the basin.

“This designation will be a major step forward in transportation planning for the Tahoe Basin,” Bryan said. “It recognizes the needs and features of the lake and provides for a better way to attack the challenges of air quality.”

The amendment is part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, a federal measure that will improve freeways and bridges.

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