Full road closures to be in effect during July 4, Labor Day holidays at Lake Tahoe
MEYERS, Calif. — Residents remain skeptical but supportive of the latest plan to stop the mass exodus of tourists leaving Lake Tahoe through residential neighborhoods in order to escape traffic congestion.
El Dorado County Department of Transportation will test a pilot program that applies full road closures during the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends on Upper Truckee Road at U.S. 50 and Sawmill Road, just off Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
DOT Director Rafael Martinez, who along with District V Supervisor Sue Novasel led a community meeting Tuesday night, said the closures will be one way.
“Northbound Upper Truckee will be open, but exiting south onto 50 will be closed,” Martinez told the Tribune. “We’ve coordinated with ambulance, fire, police and there is no emergency access issue.”
The county is closing the roads so travel apps that have exacerbated congestion in recent years won’t send motorists through neighborhoods in the area.
Motorists who do try to exit South Lake Tahoe using Upper Truckee and Sawmill onto U.S. 50 will drive past warnings before they run into a pair of 5-foot barricades with signs that say “Road Closed.”
Residents will be able to access their homes, but they too will be unable to exit the neighborhood via U.S. 50, “a side effect” of the closures, said Martinez.
The idea is to force all motorists to go through the Y and stay away from residential areas. The plan likely will impact Pioneer Trail, but officials are not sure to what extent.
The closures are expected to last from 8 a.m. into the night on July 7 and Sept. 2, the primary post-holiday travel days.
“The nudge” idea from a year ago that used signs to try to dissuade drivers by using detour signs and traffic barriers has evolved more into “the block.”
“The Nudge, for about two hours it was a complete success,” Martinez said. “Then the apps started recognizing cars could get through and started sending traffic through the side roads. We’re hoping that doesn’t happen this time.”
Residents impacted in those neighborhoods want stronger measures. They believe the current idea will fail just like “the nudge.”
“I don’t feel like this is going to do anything and people will just go around (the barriers), we know they will,” said one resident.
Overall, there were about 20 residents in attendance and all brought several questions.
Lake Valley Fire Protection District Chief Tim Alameda grabbed the microphone and made clear he wants hard closures with California Highway Patrol there to monitor them, an idea he credited to Novasel.
“I want to follow Sue’s idea, we want a hard closure and someone there to monitor … Let’s follow Sue’s plan, we support it,” Alameda said. “We have to control the traffic.”
Martinez said he supports the hard closure, but says the problem lies with Caltrans, which doesn’t view this situation as an emergency. And the cost to have a CHP officer at a closure is about $2,000 per day.
“I would say these are drastic measures,” said Martinez, who added this new idea couldn’t have happened without Novasel’s effort. “We have over 100,000 motorists leaving the basin on some weekends and our roads are only fit for 18,000 a day. We need to get Caltrans involved in the conversation. We need to find another entry into the basin or come up with alternative ideas.”