Highway 50 stall draws complaint | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Highway 50 stall draws complaint

Sally J. Taylor

The contractor repairing U.S. Highway 50 near Riverton violated its contract by stopping traffic on the weekend, according to a complaint by the Highway 50 Committee.

The committee is a coalition of business leaders from Stateline to Placerville. Members, led by the chambers of commerce, have been working with California Department of Transportation officials to ensure highway repairs and upgrades are completed before winter but with a minimum impact to tourism-dependent businesses along the Highway 50 corridor.

In a letter addressed to California Department of Transportation officials, the committee complained that, on Saturday, traffic was backed up as far as a mile. The South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce was “inundated” with phone calls protesting the delays.

“This is totally unacceptable,” Duane Wallace, executive director of the chamber and a Highway 50 Committee spokesperson said in the letter. “The contract clearly states that no work will be done that impedes traffic from noon on Friday till noon on Monday.”

Caltrans Public Affairs Official Pat Miller could not confirm the wording of the contract, however, stopping traffic was “not with our knowledge or our permission,” she said. “We will certainly address that with the company.”

According to the contract manager for Frehner Construction, Inc., the Highway 50 committee overstated the facts in its complaint.

“We worked Saturday down here, but did not materially impact traffic,” Don Grock said from the operations trailer near the work area. He estimated delays at no more than five minutes.

“We’re working as hard as we can to make sure the highway does not close during the winter (from additional slides),” he said. “We’ve cut the time frame (from the required October 28 completion date to October 8), trying to get this work done.”

Grock was disappointed that the Highway 50 Committee would criticize the company for its struggles to ensure the safety and stability of the highway which was closed due to weather-related damage for most of January and February.

“Why doesn’t someone from the chamber come up and see what we’re really doing up here,” he said.

The contract, according to earlier reports, requires that Highway 50 remain open from noon Friday until noon Monday, though work that does not interfere with traffic can continue. On weekdays since Labor Day, the highway has been completely closed and traffic is diverted along Alternate U.S. Highway 50, also known as Iron Mountain Road.

Financial incentives to complete the work early are also built into the contract.

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