Meyers residents organize meeting to discuss weekend traffic issues at Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Meyers residents organize meeting to discuss weekend traffic issues at Lake Tahoe

Winter storms can exacerbate traffic issues in Tahoe.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Citing a perceived lack of action by local officials and growing frustration with weekend traffic, Meyers area residents are organizing in an effort to identify possible solutions.

The starting point will come Friday night at a community meeting organized by residents.

The meeting, which is slated to start at 7:30 p.m. in the California Conservation Corps building in Meyers, is open to the public. The hope is that by coming together the community can identify some short-term solutions and get the ball rolling on a topic where previous efforts have stalled or proven ineffective.

"This is an effort to say 'here's what we have, here's what we can do, what else (needs to be done)?'" said Jeffrey Spencer, a Christmas Valley resident who was asked to moderate the meeting.

Traffic is not a new issue. People from surrounding communities have been flocking to Lake Tahoe for weekend ski trips for decades. However, in recent years the problem has grown into what residents say is a genuine public safety nightmare.

Busy weekends can turn U.S. 50 into a parking lot and clog side streets with drivers relying on navigation apps in an attempt to avoid the traffic. Trips that normally take 20 minutes can take hours.

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And when those conditions occur at the same time as a winter storm, such as earlier this year on the weekend after New Year's, the situation can turn into a real life nightmare.

Officials with El Dorado County have hosted stakeholder meetings in recent years to gather community feedback and talk through possible solutions.

"I think we're all frustrated from it," El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel said of the traffic.

From those meetings, which Novasel chaired, came a diversion tactic known as the "nudge," which was first employed last year with some success.

However, the problem is too great for one or several diversion efforts, intended to keep departing visitors off neighborhood streets, to solve.

Another idea, originally hatched by local California Highway Patrol officials, involved using the agriculture inspection station in Meyers as a rationale to force electronic closure of side streets that would take drivers around the station. By forcing electronic closures, those alternative routes would not appear in navigation apps.

Kenny Curtzwiler, who lost to Novasel in the race for supervisor in 2018, publicly advocated that approach.

In June, CHP and the county sent a letter to Waze, a navigation app owned by Google, asking the company consider the electronic closure. Waze never responded to the letter, according to the county.

"We haven't found a perfect answer yet and we're still looking for it," Novasel said.

Spencer, who also ran for county supervisor in 2018, and Novasel said they have been in contact with state officials, including Assembly member Frank Bigelow's office, to try to address what he says is a conflict in state law that has caused confusion about who can control traffic on local roads.

"There's no way we should have state law as a barrier to managing the traffic on our own local roads," Spencer said.

As for the format of Friday's meeting, Spencer said there will be time for attendees to talk but he does not want the conversation to dwell on the obvious frustration many residents feel. More so than anything else, he wants to hear from first responders about the challenges the traffic poses when responding to emergencies.

"I want to hear the experiences of the emergency responders," Spencer said, adding getting them on board as one unified voice will be critical for any changes to be successful.

Novasel said she is interested to hear any ideas that may come out of Friday's meeting.

As for some of the anger in the community about the impact, Novasel, a Christmas Valley resident, said it's not due to a lack of effort.

"It's been years that we've worked on this," she said.

"The bottom line is … there's 'x' amount of capacity we have and when that capacity is reach it overflows into our neighborhoods and it frustrates everyone."

COMMUNITY MEETING

When: Friday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Where: California Conservation Corps building, 1949 Apache Ave., Meyers