Metro plan is moving along |

Metro plan is moving along

With automobiles crowding Tahoe streets at peak tourist times, transportation is obviously an important issue at Lake Tahoe. However, the formation of a group in 1999 is intended to be a big step in improving transportation problems, officials say.

With the approval of local governments and recent support of the governors of Nevada and California, there is nothing standing in the way of the formation of the Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization, a planning board created to bring together efforts of several Lake Tahoe transportation organizations as well as bring in additional federal funding to projects and planning.

“Everyone is pulling together in the basin in terms of transportation,” said Jim Baetge, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “This is outstanding news. All the local governments have come together with the two states and all of the public.”

In addition to other benefits, the TMPO should be able to bring, at a minimum, $150,000 in planning funds and $300,000 in project-implementation funds each year. Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service would be eligible for at least $200,000 in public land highway funds.

“We expect the full formation of the MPO probably isn’t going to happen until about July 1st,” Baetge said. “In the interim, we’ll be getting set up to do it. We’ve already started the planning.”

Lake Tahoe’s ability to form an MPO comes as a result of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in June. An MPO Implementation Working Group – composed of TRPA, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Lake Tahoe Transportation and Water Quality Coalition and Lake Tahoe government and transportation agencies – met for months to define the structure, look at legal issues and develop the documents needed to implement the designation.

With one additional member, the TRPA governing board will also stand as the TMPO board. TRPA governors took action to proceed with the MPO formation in November. California Gov. Pete Wilson gave his support to it Nov. 20, Nevada Gov. Bob Miller on Dec. 10.

“That’s a major step,” said Steve Teshara, director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance and member of the working group. “Now we can move forward with formal implementation.”

The TMPO board will be made up of the 14 voting members of the TRPA governing board and one representative from the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Additionally, a Tahoe Transportation Commission will be formed, made of the six local government members of the Tahoe Transportation District, one member of the Truckee/North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, one member of the South Shore Transportation Management Association, one at-large TTD member, one representative from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, one representative of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and one at-large citizen. Also, one member each from the Nevada and California departments of transportation will be non-voting members of the TTC.

The commission is expected to be a management team for developing programs and projects and providing direction for their implementation.

The commission is not intended to be an implementation body but to coordinate with NDOT, Caltrans, TTD, USFS, the counties and other jurisdictions for the implementation.

“I don’t think the public will notice a change in operations,” Baetge said. “But, they will see the results when they’re on the ground.”

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