Marina expansion is a go |

Marina expansion is a go

Michael S. Green

The Tahoe Keys Marina expansion project got a green light from the South Lake Tahoe City Council, but it faces a multimillion-dollar speed bump.

The council voted 4-1 early Wednesday to certify the Tahoe Keys Marina Master Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. But it also passed an amendment by Councilwoman Brooke Laine to tie approval of marina projects to traffic improvements at Tahoe Keys Boulevard and U.S. Highway 50.

The marina was already expected to pay roughly 22 percent of the cost of such improvements, which the California Department of Transportation has estimated could reach up to $3 million. The existing intersection is a “level of service F” in traffic studies, with delays of 129 seconds per vehicle.

The expanded marina would draw up to 900 more vehicles per day, according to the EIS, increasing delays at the intersection to 177 seconds per vehicle.

“It’s not enough to say the developer’s going to pay 22 percent. You also have to state how that intersection is going to be designed and funded,” Laine said.

That could be a significant roadblock. A proposal to add turn lanes to westbound Highway 50 would involve costly right-of-way acquisitions. No funding has been set aside for the project, no design is in place and the businesses that would be impacted aren’t particularly interested in selling.

“We would hope the city would have the funds available when we want to go forward with the (marina) project,” said Dick Horton, co-owner of Tahoe Keys Marina, who wanted to start construction next year. “It’s kind of tough to be constrained by something we have no control over.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board will consider the master plan on Wednesday, and Horton said he will keep pushing for its passage.

“We’ve come this far in the journey, we may as well go the remaining mile,” he said, even though the city’s action could delay the project several years.

That would be just fine with Councilman Bill Crawford, who opposes any expansion of the marina and called his vote a “political move.”

“I knew there would be a majority vote for approving the master plan, but with the amendment, it’s less likely to get done,” he said.

Crawford joined with Laine and Mayor Hal Cole to pass the traffic amendment on a 3-2 vote. Tom Davis and Judy Brown dissented.

“I think it was unfair to put so much burden on the marina for the failings of the city,” Brown said. “We have so many intersections that are level of service F and I felt it was unfair to burden the marina with that.”

But Laine defended the amendment, saying it would force traffic planners to work harder to fix the problem.

“In this world, a project doesn’t even get on the burner until the funds are available,” she said. “We’ve got to get the funds in place.”

Cole agreed with that assessment.

“(Marina) project or not, we want to do something there,” Cole said of the intersection. “Now that we have a developer who’s going to pay a fifth of it, it’s more likely to happen now than ever.”

Horton doesn’t share that optimism. He expects to spend the next few months examining whether the expansion is economically feasible.

And what if the plans don’t pencil out?

“We put them up on a nice, clean shelf somewhere and let them gather dust for a while,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.