Tahoe Transportation District hosts Highway 50 Loop Road discussion, residents express mixed feelings
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — While the idea of a loop road diverting Highway 50 around the South Shore’s casino corridor began circulating in the 1980s, the idea finally appears to be gaining traction. Yet optimism comes as cause for concern among a number of area residents.
In an effort to receive feedback, the Tahoe Transportation District hosted a public workshop Tuesday, Dec. 1, at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, giving residents an opportunity to see five proposed plans and submit comments to the agency.
“I think overall it’s been very positive,” said TTD district manager Carl Hasty. “There’s a lot of interest.”
A recent Tahoe Daily Tribune reader poll overwhelmingly supported the project, with 83 percent of close to 2,000 people that elected to take the poll supporting the project. Only 10 percent disagreed with the idea and close to 7 percent said they would need more information.
Two primary designs are currently the leading options. Both include Highway 50 being rerouted behind Heavenly Village. One plan has the loop returning to the original highway route close to the Raley’s grocery store near Stateline. The other has the route headed farther into existing South Lake Tahoe neighborhoods along Moss Road.
The difference may be negligible for most area residents, but for Mike Hoffe and his wife Carol it would mean the difference between keeping their family built cabin, which has been passed down for generations, and having it demolished.
“I can see their dream, but the problem is the sentimental value,” Mike Hoffe said. “It’s the memories in the place we have.”
Hoffe’s father and grandfather built the cabin themselves in the 1940s. The Bay Area resident and South Lake Tahoe second homeowner said he would not opt to relocate if he has to give up his property due to eminent domain. Without the family home, he said he would stop coming up to the area. Both he and his wife acknowledged the need for revitalization, but they would be sad to see it come at the expense of their family home.
HOW REALISTIC IS IT?
Others with properties in the path of the proposed realignment expressed concerns about the uncertainty moving forward and what that means for their property values. The lack of an approved plan would mean current owners would be unlikely to be able to sell their properties to third parties before a decision is made, leaving them in limbo awaiting a decision.
One resident speculated that the City of South Lake Tahoe may try to condemn some of the more blighted properties in the area in order to reduce property values in any land exchange. Tahoe Daily Tribune could not confirm the grounds for speculation.
Hasty said that, moving forward, land exchange would be the biggest obstacle to the project.
“That could take a couple of years,” he said. “That process is slow.”
Further delay was among concerns expressed by some in attendance.
“They’ve dragged it on for way too long,” Lynn Jadczak said. “They’ve been talking about it since the 80s.”
Jadczak, who lives with her partner near Ski Run Boulevard, welcomed the project and what it would mean for a more pedestrian friendly downtown.
Another Ski Run area resident, however, expressed concern regarding a concept drawing that showed an eight-lane intersection. She said such a large intersection seemed unnecessary and would be challenging for her and her son to continue to bike to Heavenly Village.
In response, Hasty said the plans were far from finalized and that those comments would be taken into consideration.
“Those are design concerns. Those are the reasons we have these meetings,” Hasty said, describing the potential for revision. “That’s a very different conversation than is, ‘Is this project a good project?’”
The project would have potential for revision following environmental impact approval, according to Hasty.
WHO PICKS UP THE BILL?
Others in attendance expressed concern about how the estimated $65 million project would be financed.
Hasty said that would be resolved once the environmental review has been approved — which TTD projects for some time in 2016.
“You’ve got to put together the concept, and then you put together the money,” he said. “Getting through the environmental decision is key to getting both private and public money.”
Hasty cited the Tahoe City Highway 89 realignment, currently underway, as a similar example.
“That project had no funds at all. Now we’re looking at $26 million,” he explained.
To those that expressed concern about the need for other projects in Meyers and at the “Y” intersection, Hasty said that the Highway 50 plan would not necessarily effect them.
“You get one done, then you go to another,” Hasty said, agreeing with the other regional needs. “All these areas need to be addressed.”
Public comments will continue to be accepted on the transportation district’s Highway 50 project page, http://www.tahoetransportation.org/us50. The TTD is projecting that an environmental impact study draft will be completed in the first quarter of 2016, followed by a 60-day public comment period. The final impact study and design alternatives are expected to be released later in the year. No timeline has been established for project completion.
Hasty will present a project update to South Lake Tahoe City Council at the next council meeting, Monday, Dec. 7. The monthly council meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
“There’s a lot of information that needs to be brought out,” city council member Austin Sass said of the need for the presentation. “There are many unanswered questions.”
Council members are expected to have an opportunity for a question-and-answer session with Hasty following the presentation, Sass said.