Caltrans considers rest stop sites
The California Department of Transportation is narrowing its alternatives for rest stop sites between Placerville and Lake Tahoe along U.S. Highway 50.
The quest for public bathrooms and rest facilities along the route has been an arduous 20-year task, according to Darold Heikens, Caltrans north region landscape architect.
“Because of the geography of the canyon, it’s just very difficult to find a place that meets our needs, the travelers’ needs and the needs of residents who may live close to a site,” Heikens said.
Heikens hopes to send out ads in local and national newspapers by December for proposals from the private sector that would partner with Caltrans or provide a location. At the same time the transportation department will examine the feasibility of a fully state-financed rest stop.
Heikens said Caltrans is considering a 20- to 30-mile area around Kyburz for a possible site. Caltrans is looking at sites large enough to accommodate travelers’ rest room and parking needs along both sides of the road, according to Heikens.
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tom Davis said accessibility to both sides of the road should not be a necessary qualification as long as there is a site on the right-hand side coming into Lake Tahoe. Davis said those who have just left town will need to stop much less than those who have been traveling several hours to reach Tahoe.
Davis and his business partners, Alex Graf and Paul Gardner, own a 5,000-square-foot building on an acre of land a quarter of a mile west of Sierra-at-Tahoe. Davis said the site is ideal for a quality welcome center with rest rooms and changing areas for children, because it’s on the right-hand side of the road coming into Lake Tahoe. Davis said he is expecting to set up a meeting with Caltrans soon in order to discuss a partnership between the two.
Although Heikens said a functional site that meets all Caltrans criteria won’t be available for more than three years, some restaurant and hotel owners would like relief from the public using their establishments as rest areas.
“All the businesses around here have the same problem and the same rule. If you want to use the rest room at least be a customer,” said Kendra Ussery, one of the owners of the Strawberry Market and Deli. “But if just the bathroom is all they want it’s frustrating.”
Terri Shanahan, a waitress at St. Pauli’s Inn, said the people who come in to use the inn’s restroom facilities are generally low key, but she still thinks a rest stop along U.S. Highway 50 is a good idea.
“I know several restaurants that have put up signs for no public restrooms,” Shanahan said. “We have a lot of people who come in here to use ours, but they’re pretty mellow about it.”
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