Curbs, Gutters, sidewalk dropped from congressional package |

Curbs, Gutters, sidewalk dropped from congressional package

Sarah Gonser

At least for now, U.S. Highway 50 sidewalk construction – known as the curb, gutter, sidewalk project – is not getting any congressional funding.

That means project advocates need to go back to the drawing board and either repackage a more appealing proposal or seek funding elsewhere, said Steve Teshara, co-chair of the Lake Tahoe Transportation & Water Quality Coalition.

But the failure to get funding is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of some city officials who feel the project is long overdue.

“I was very disappointed that it was dropped from the bill. I think we made it quite clear that was our No. 1 priority for Tahoe,” said Tom Davis, South Lake Tahoe city councilman. “The next step is lobbying. I want to have a conversation with the congressman for our region and figure out what went wrong.”

“I’ve been in Tahoe for 13 years and there have been no improvements since I’ve been here,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Linda Coursey, who has been wheelchair-bound her entire life. According to Coursey, it is difficult to travel around town especially during the winter.

The project was pushed in Washington D.C. by the Lake Tahoe Transportation & Water Quality Coalition – an organization that assembles packages of Lake Tahoe appropriation requests, and tracks them through the congressional process in an effort to get earmarked dollars for local projects.

This year, Lake Tahoe’s congressional package totaled approximately $33 million, Teshara said, and included erosion control, watershed restoration and sensitive land acquisition projects.

“We agreed to include the sidewalk project in the package, although it was communicated to the city that sidewalk projects are typically not earmarked in congress for funding,” Teshara said. “Also, $7 million is a significant amount of money – the only other project topping that was for land acquisition. The chances of a congressperson saying, ‘Yes, I will champion this,’ were very slim.”

Sure enough, the project received no endorsement, and thus, no funding. Teshara claimed the Coalition showed equal commitment toward the sidewalk project as it did to the other projects in the package, but $7 million worth of sidewalks is a hard project to sell, he said.

“No member of the House or Senate saw the project as a high priority,” Teshara said. “They need to sell these requests to their fellow senators, this one was a hard sell and they knew it.”

Davis said the project already has $7 million from the California Department of Transportation but that an additional matching $7 million would be needed to complete it. Besides wheelchair-accessible sidewalks on both sides of U.S. Highway 50 between Ski Run Boulevard and the “Y,” the project includes drainage and landscaping.

The city, Davis said, would be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks year-round.

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