Local officials make plea to Google to help address traffic woes at Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local officials make plea to Google to help address traffic woes at Lake Tahoe

Ryan Hoffman | rhoffman@tahoedailytribune.com
Many people point to popular GPS apps, such as the one used in this staged photo, as the problem heightening existing traffic woes in residential areas.
Ryan Hoffman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Local officials are once again asking tech giant Google to help alleviate traffic issues on residential streets in the Meyers area.

In a joint letter dated Feb. 12, El Dorado County Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton and Barton Memorial Hospital CEO Clint Purvance pleaded with officials at Google to help combat neighborhood traffic congestion by enacting electronic closures for side streets.

Echoing horror stories shared by Meyers residents, the letter — which the Tribune obtained a copy of — described the situation as a “public safety issue.”

The issue, as detailed in the letter and described repeatedly by officials and residents in recent years, occurs during peak visitation times as visitors attempt to leave the basin via U.S. 50.

When traffic becomes backed up on U.S. 50, navigation apps search for alternative routes to help drivers avoid some of the gridlock. That displaces the gridlock and associated problems to neighborhoods streets.

Residents have shared horror stories stemming from the issue, including trapped motorists using front yards as de facto bathrooms. Such stories were shared at a public meeting earlier this month in Meyers.

Several Barton Health employees at the meeting expressed their concerns about being able to get to work on days when the traffic is backed up into neighborhoods.

“It’s a safety issue,” one woman said at the meeting.

As a short-term solution, California Highway Patrol has proposed using the agriculture inspection station in Meyers and a state law that prohibits vehicles from circumventing such inspection stations as a tool to enact electronic closures.

The closures would work much the same way as when a car crash closes a road. The notice is uploaded and then detected by the navigation companies, which direct traffic to a different route.

The electronic closure would be applied to side streets that could be used to circumnavigate the inspection station.

Over the summer El Dorado County sent a letter to Waze, the Google-owned navigation app, asking that it help implement the electronic closures during peak travel times.

Waze did not respond to the letter.

The Feb. 12 letter, which Barton’s Purvance signed onto, was a second plea to the company to take action.

“We respectfully request Waze become a partner with us and take steps to institute electronic closures to traffic in residential areas as drivers exit South Lake Tahoe and head west in advance of what is sure to be another high-traffic volume, high-anxiety weekend during President’s Day on Feb. 18 as throngs of visitors take advantage of the several feet of newly-fallen snow the area has received in the last two weeks.”