Traffic delays, road closures possible under future Hwy 50 bridge project |

Traffic delays, road closures possible under future Hwy 50 bridge project

Griffin Rogers

A Caltrans project planned for the near future could result in major delays for motorists driving to and from South Lake Tahoe.

The Echo Summit Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project proposes to replace or rehabilitate the old Echo Summit bridge on Highway 50, located about seven miles west of South Lake Tahoe.

The good news for motorists is they have time to plan for it — construction isn’t expected to start on the project until 2019.

However, Caltrans has already begun spreading the word. A public meeting on the project is scheduled Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at Lake Tahoe Airport in South Lake Tahoe.

“We’re very early in project development,” said Steve Nelson, Tahoe Basin outreach coordinator for Caltrans, “but we want to engage the public now and gather their feedback in helping us select a preferred alternative.”

Age, weather and use have created several deficiencies on the 76-year-old, 24-foot-wide bridge, including severe cracking and wear on portions of the concrete and extensive rust on the structure’s reinforcing steel, according to Caltrans.

As a fix, Caltrans is looking at three major options for addressing the problem. Two of them propose replacing the bridge altogether with either a 26-foot-wide or 30.75-foot-wide bridge, but another scenario involves rehabilitating the structure already in place.

Of course, Caltrans also has the option of doing nothing. But that doesn’t sound likely.

Traffic delays are expected in every scenario that requires work to be done, but they vary in length depending on the option chosen.

Under the first alternative, which would replace the structure with a 26-foot-wide bridge, a full road closure is being proposed that would last 20 to 90 days depending on if work is completed in one construction season or two. An additional 10 to 70 days of one-way traffic control is also expected, bringing the total estimated length for construction between 100 to 150 days in that scenario.

A 20 to 50 day road closure is also anticipated under project alternative three, which proposes to rehabilitate the bridge. Construction under that option would take a total of 150 to 180 days to complete — or two construction seasons — with 90 to 120 of those days under one-way traffic control.

Alternative two, which would replace the existing bridge with a 30.75-foot-wide bridge, is the only scenario in which no road closure is necessary. That option is anticipated to take 160 to 230 days to complete, depending on the length of work shifts. But either way, work would take two construction seasons in that alternative.

Caltrans estimates the first two alternatives would cost about $5.2 million, while the bridge rehabilitation would cost a little more — $6.1 million.

The project was first identified in 2012 and is now in the environmental planning stage. Preparation of design documents is expected to begin in July 2016, followed by the awarding of a construction contract in 2018.

The public will have a chance to provide comments on the project at the Feb. 26 meeting.

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