Douglas commissioners bristle at Tahoe fee plan
STATELINE, Nev. — A proposal to give the Tahoe Transportation District the power to charge motorists a fee to travel through the Tahoe Basin was roundly rejected by Douglas County Commissioners on Thursday.
The district proposes asking the 2021 Nevada Legislature to give it the power to levy a fee on vehicles to make up what it says is a $1.5 billion transportation improvement shortfall.
“I’m appalled that anybody would have the audacity to present it,” Commission Chairman Barry Penzel said.
One recommendation would charge Tahoe households $7 a month and businesses at the Lake an average of $71 based on their trip generation.
It would cost one person visiting the basin $4.10 per day or $1.06 a day per person in groups of more than one person.
The district wasn’t seeking approval of the fees, just the power to collect the fee. It would be the first quarter of 2023 before any fee could be charge, if it was approved.
Both the Nevada and California legislatures would have to approve the proposal.
If that occurred it would be a first step toward approval, any fee would have to be used for regional transportation projects and could only be charged to make up the shortfall.
Douglas County Commissioner West Rice sits on the district board among roughly a dozen people. The Douglas representative would get a vote on the transportation plan, whether a fee is implemented and the annual budget, according to consultant Derek Morse of Morse Associates said.
“It’s to fill that gap and nothing more,” he said.
Rice said he has expressed his opposition to the measure to the district.
“I’ve tried to be honest and up front,” he said. “I have a tough time supporting user fees when people in the Valley see Tahoe as their backyard and play ground. I don’t think telling Douglas residents they’re going to have to pay to come to Lake Tahoe is going to fly very well.”
Tahoe Transportation District Director Carl Hasty said the district was seeking solutions.
“The community at Tahoe is pretty fed up with the traffic,” he said. “You saw protests at the roundabout to keep people out. Growth happens outside of Tahoe, and Tahoe is in demand. Even with the COVID, and no celebrity golf, and no concert series the hotels are still full and people are still coming here.”
Trans-Sierra Investments Vice President Gary Casteel urged commissioners to oppose the measure.
“It is apparent from their presentation that they are trying to reduce or stop day-trip travelers to Lake Tahoe, which includes all of our Valley residents that spend significant dollars in Tahoe,” Casteel said in a letter penned on Tuesday.
Casteel argued that vehicle traffic counts are down from the record highs of the 1980s.
“This user fee charge will hurt all residents, businesses, community employees and create a barrier to entry for our guest coming to or traveling through Lake Tahoe,” he said.
The Nevada Legislature meets again in February 2021.
County commissioners voted 5-0 against supporting the district’s pursuit of enabling legislation.
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