Opening Day Lake Tahoe to return with new traffic plan |

Opening Day Lake Tahoe to return with new traffic plan

Elaine Goodman
Dan Thrift / Tribune file photo Motorcycle stunt rider Wes Agee soars above Highway 50 in the casino corridor during last year's Opening Day Lake Tahoe celebration.

Organizers of Opening Day Lake Tahoe intend to bring the event back again in June – but this year, with a plan to reduce traffic snarls resulting from the closure of Highway 50 through the casino corridor.

Opening Day is considered a kickoff to the summer season at the South Shore. Last year, it featured freestyle motocross, a Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant, live music and vendors in the Stateline area, as well as a paddlewheeler race, boat parade and parasail competition on the lake.

To make more room for the events, Highway 50 was closed and traffic routed onto the Lake Parkway loop around the closure.

But the closure caused motorist delays of an hour or more, according to a report from South Lake Tahoe police, and drove business away from merchants at Heavenly Village and the Village Center.

This year, the plan calls for closing the highway again and rerouting traffic onto Lake Parkway. But traffic will flow one-way around the loop rather than in both directions. Two lanes will be available at each end of the closure for motorists to turn onto the loop.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday gave the police department the go-ahead to work with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, which organizes the event, on the plan.

This year’s event is scheduled for June 21-22, with the street closure slated for June 21. The event’s lineup of activities will be much like last year’s but spread over two days.

Another difference is that some of the activity will take place on the California side of the Stateline, including live music in front of Heavenly Village and a family fun zone.

There will be more space for vendors, and local businesses are encouraged to participate.

Ashley Matilla, co-owner of Marcus Ashley Galleries in the Village Center, described the effect of last year’s event on retailers as “terrible.”

“The traffic was really bad,” she told the council.

But Matilla said she was encouraged that the event would be moving into California, and that the visitors authority was taking steps to improve the traffic situation.

“I commend them for that,” she said.

The visitors authority still is awaiting approval for the event from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Caltrans and Douglas County.

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