Highway 50 beautification workshop slated | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Highway 50 beautification workshop slated

Jenifer Ragland

South Lake Tahoe officials want to install new curbs and sidewalks along U.S. Highway 50, and they want to know what residents think of the idea.

Tuesday, City Council members will hear a staff presentation and accept public comment on the $4 million beautification project, which also includes a new bicycle lane, pedestrian lighting and landscaping from the “Y” Intersection to Ski Run Boulevard.

“Council sees this project as an excellent opportunity to dramatically improve the appearance of the highway,” said Mayor Tom Davis. “The visual appearance in places needs major improvement and we want to remedy that.”

A public hearing is required before the project can be approved by the California Department of Transportation, said Brad Vidro, principal civil engineer with the city public works department.

One aspect of the project that could prove to be controversial is how it will be financed.

“Everyone agrees it’s a great project, the question is, whose going to pay for it?” Vidro said.

Right now, the city only has 30 percent of the needed funding, and is seeking the additional 70 percent from the federal government.

Vidro said he should know by October whether or not the demonstration project will be included in a federal bill coming from the office of Senator John Doolittle, R-Roseville.

But if the federal funding does not come through, the city is considering imposing a tax on property owners along the highway who would benefit from the improvements.

Jan Busatto, associate management analyst, said some business owners were not thrilled with the possibility of higher taxes.

“It is not a favorite idea to be assessed,” she said.

Affected property owners would have to vote on an additional fee, and if a majority of them were against it, other methods of funding would have to be pursued.

She said that is the purpose of Tuesday’s public hearing – to give people a chance to voice concerns or ideas they may have before the plan moves forward.

Deb Howard, co-owner of the Coldwell Banker building at 2196 Highway 50, said she encourages other businesses to support the improvement effort, based on her own personal experience.

“Not only does (the project) improve the visual esthetics along Highway 50, which is our front door, it also makes a marked improvement in our business bottom line,” Howard said. “Believe me, we have done it, and it gets results.”

Vidro said if the project receives federal funding, construction will be done all at once during the 1998 and 1999 construction seasons. If the city must pursue another option, construction would be done in phases, and would probably take three years to finish.

The idea for the project originated from the Joint Economic Vision Committee, made up of City Council and Chamber of Commerce members, when it met with the public in 1994. Since that time, city staffers have been designing the scope of the project and attempting to secure the funding.

City officials believe that the improvements will provide not only a visual upgrade within the Highway 50 corridor, but also a safe access for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

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