Caltrans issues update on 2017 South Lake Tahoe project
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Caltrans on Monday, Dec. 7, addressed some concerns that city of South Lake Tahoe staff and council members had regarding improvements on Highway 50 from the “Y” to Trout Creek Bridge.
Among those concerns, according to city manager Nancy Kerry, were safety and traffic delays.
“This project this summer caused so much disruption,” Kerry said at Monday’s meeting.
Subcontractors for Southwest Gas Company relocated most of its gas lines during the summer in advance of a 2017 Caltrans project to improve Highway 50 from the “Y” to Trout Creek Bridge. The work resulted in planned traffic delays.
Kerry added that the city would like to see as little daytime construction as possible.
The upcoming $56.7 million project will take three seasons to build, according to Caltrans project manager Clark Peri.
That includes repaving, widening the shoulders to accommodate bicyclists, installing new traffic signals, enhancing pedestrian safety and improving storm drain capacity. Street lighting won’t be included in the project and may be addressed in the future.
Peri added that daytime construction is essential to the project’s targeted completion in 2019.
“The reason we wanted to do both daytime and nighttime work was to get it done as soon as possible,” Peri said.
Reducing construction hours would result in a fourth building season.
Construction season in the Lake Tahoe Basin runs from late spring through Oct. 15. With some exceptions, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency requires all grading projects to be finished by that date.
Councilman Tom Davis expressed concerns about traffic flaggers controlling the intersections on Highway 50 during the construction over the summer.
“The flaggers were completely inexperienced,” Davis said. “I think they were thrown into this by the subcontractor without any proper training.”
He noted one experience in which he was driving through the construction zone when he pulled over to let an ambulance pass. He was promptly asked why he was doing it by one of the traffic flaggers.
Davis added that he disagreed with the lack of street lights, calling it a safety concern.
“That section of road is dark and unfortunately we have to rely on lights from the businesses,” Davis said. “We need a complete and safe street, and lighting is a huge part of that.”
Councilman Austin Sass noted that people in the surrounding neighborhoods were impacted by traffic that went around the construction.
“The residents in those neighborhoods felt unsafe, so I hope that goes to the top of the pile for Caltrans,” Sass said.
Councilwoman JoAnn Conner noted that Caltrans went to extreme lengths to minimize community impacts, especially with its project on Emerald Bay Road toward Camp Richardson. Those efforts included widening some driveways and adjusting its work hours accordingly
Peri said that he was aware of some of the concerns regarding the Southwest subcontractor.
However, when construction begins in 2017, the contractor hired for the project will be directly under Caltrans’ authority.
“Delays are going to happen and we do plan to have flaggers out there in case there are issues with traffic,” Peri said.
He added that Caltrans is trying to avoid implementing a traffic detour plan once it breaks ground on the project.
“Part of our assumption is that locals know what roads to take around construction,” Peri said.
Peri said the project will be broken into three phases. One phase will start from the “Y” intersection to Winnemucca Avenue; the second will run from Winnemucca Avenue to Sierra Boulevard; and the third from Sierra Boulevard to Trout Creek Bridge.
“This would make it easier for the contractor and limit the number of disruptions to the area,” he said.
Most of the road work would be done during the off-peak season, or between May 1 and Memorial Day Weekend and after Labor Day through Oct. 15. Caltrans plans to conduct around-the-clock work during that time.
One lane of traffic would be open each way.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, work will occur at night from Sunday through Friday morning. All lanes would be open during weekends and holidays.
Peri said Caltrans plans to conduct a series of public meetings prior to construction to address concerns.
For more information, visit http://www.tahoeroads.com or visit the project site at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist3/Projects/3C380/prjindex.htm.