Help on the way for stranded motorists |

Help on the way for stranded motorists

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Call it a public safety net for the visitors and residents of South Lake Tahoe. Call boxes will make their way east from Ice House Road through El Dorado County along Highway 50 next month.

The solar-powered boxes to be spaced a mile apart are due to reach the Douglas County line by the end of summer, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments announced.

This is welcome news to the California Highway Patrol.

“If your car breaks down in the canyon at 2 in the morning on a Wednesday, it’s just hit or miss (whether you’ll be seen),” CHP spokeswoman Sherry Reehl said. “At best you could be sitting there for two hours — at the worst, overnight.”

CHP officers share horror stories of motorists left stranded by mechanical problems in the rural areas of California.

A dollar taken from vehicle license fees will fund the program, which amounts to 95 of the orange-colored call boxes for the county. Each call box costs $4,200 to buy, install and operate.

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Calls are channeled into CHP dispatch.

SACOG kicked in $500,000 in startup funds to help El Dorado join the six-county service area. There are already 1,300 call boxes throughout Sacramento, Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, San Joaquin and El Dorado counties.

Installation of the call boxes from the Sacramento County line ended at Ice House Road west of Placerville last fall, as SACOG waited for the necessary permits and switched telephone companies.

“This has been a program worth waiting for,” county Supervisor Dave Solaro said.

SACOG also hopes to place the boxes along Highway 49 north of Placerville.

“The goal is to install call boxes on all state routes in the county,” SACOG Transportation Planner Doug Reed said.

-Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at