South Lake Tahoe highway project promises change, community improvements
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A revitalized, pedestrian-friendly main street center, dedicated highway corridor for motorists and new opportunities are all ideas that are part of a proposed Highway 50 project near the state line.
According to Tahoe Transportation District manager Carl Hasty, the Highway 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project — also known as the Loop Road project — has been actively pursued since 2009. The project’s draft document will be ready for public review in the first quarter of 2016.
“Our whole goal is to get the information out in the daylight and talk about all the benefits of the project with stakeholders and the public,” Hasty said.
The project was initially proposed in 1980, but lacked either the resources or information to move forward until six years ago when Tahoe Transportation District took the lead.
Out of five alternative ideas, three designs would realign Highway 50 at Lake Parkway in Stateline to run behind MontBleu Resort, Casino and Spa, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, and Heavenly Village Center.
The new highway corridor would reconnect at a newly constructed Pioneer Trail intersection in South Lake Tahoe.
The existing 1.1-mile route, from Pioneer Trail to Lake Parkway, would be redesignated as a local road.
Hasty said the project holds several benefits if it gets final approval.
“Economically, it fits into the goal of community revitalization,” he explained.
That goal includes more walking/biking options for people who want to shop at Heavenly Village and other local business, and turning the area into “main street” community.
Hasty said if Highway 50 is rerouted, the current corridor would fall into local control. Both South Lake Tahoe and Douglas County would have more flexibility in what could be planned along that route.
“This could kick the door open to some potential private-public partnerships,” Hasty added.
Local governments could also incorporate their own road and community improvement projects, like new sidewalks and bike lanes, without approval from the state. The area holds promise for future mixed-use development.
According to Hasty, community impacts will be inevitable if the project comes to fruition.
The project would require obtaining a lot of right-of-way permissions, which could affect residents or businesses in the area.
“We will want to replace some of the residential houses so we can move forward with the project, so we are looking at some options,” Hasty said.
He added that the district is incorporating those options into the draft document. Those options could include constructing updated residential units and encourage private investment.
Enough money is available to get the project through the environmental process. After the process is completed and approved, construction money would come from a combination of sources, including local, state and federal contributions.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners is considering a gas tax increase at its Dec. 3 meeting. Part of the revenue generated from that would be earmarked for the project.
The final project designs still needs to meet all state, federal and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency requirements.
MORE Information needed
While the project makes a lot of promises, some have reservations about the project, including South Lake Tahoe councilman Austin Sass.
Sass represents the city on the Tahoe Transportation District’s board of directors.
“I think the most important thing for the project right now is to bring information and transparency to the public,” Sass said.
He added that the more information people have, the more they can weigh in on whether or not they want the project to move forward.
“There are things about the project that sound good and things that don’t,” Sass said. “By putting out the information, people can make those decisions.”
Tahoe Transportation District will hold a public workshop about the project from 5-7 p.m. on Dec. 1 at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, 4130 Lake Tahoe Blvd. A presentation will be made to the South Lake Tahoe City Council on Dec. 7 at 9 a.m. at 1901 Airport Road.
For more information on the project, visit http://www.tahoetransportation.org/us50.