Guest column: Thoughts to consider on Loop Road bypass project (opinion)
Editor’s note: This item was originally submitted to City Council by Duane Wallace. It has been edited for length and style.
The Bypass Loop Road project preferred alternative will be out any day now. We all know what that decision will be. It is obviously awkward to have one of your members suing you regarding Measure T.
While the judge did rule in their favor, that was done without the proponents even being able to be in the discussion to present an argument of any kind, and your former attorney unfortunately did not defend the citizens but rather evidently rolled over. It seemed that ex parte may have actually occurred.
That was then. This is now. We believe the advice you were given was not appropriate. Your simply changing the language in consultation with your co-defendants/ us might have worked. And it still may work. We are after all co-defendants, not adversaries, and your role is to defend your residents not to side with unknown financers of an expensive lawsuit against your residents. That has seemed be lost in the mix.
The proponents have made it seem like birds are going to sing and the sun will shine brighter with pedestrians walking hand in hand if we will only allow this 1 mile, $100 million freeway project to go through one of our neighborhoods. We see only dark clouds ahead.
The fact still remains that 60 percent of your voters want a say in the decision regarding the project. It appears that percentage has grown ever larger. The question is: How high does it have to be for the council to accept it as being valid?
I have heard some council members say “oh well the voters don’t really know what they want so the council needs to decide all issues.” We elected people sure think the voters knew what they were doing when they elected us. I know I do when I’m elected. But that doesn’t mean we should stop listening, rather quite the contrary. And it is in our state constitution that the voters have the ability and right to make state, county and city decisions, especially when it comes to taxes.
It certainly needs to be explored whether the California side of the bypass will have to use tax funds to put up their share of the federal required match on the $1 million. Where will that approximately $5 million come from? The match is usually 20 percent, which would actually mean our share is $10 million. Unless it is a straight 100 percent grant, the feds always expect a 20 percent match. The Nevada side has already voted for a gas tax for their share. I asked a TTD representative, where will ours come from? He didn’t know. Do you know where our California side share will come from?
Another argument against the initiative: The city will not have a say in the matter so it’s unnecessary for the residents to have to vote. TTD’s own words from its website (attached) identify the city as a partner that has a decision making say over the project.
Certainly changing zoning, such as the housing element and densities, will require council votes as will abandoning of right of ways, dedicating city streets and accepting a U.S. highway through that mostly Hispanic neighborhood.
As we have said before, it is basically taking a traffic problem between the casinos and moving it into one of your residents’ neighborhoods. In addition the Hispanic Caucus of the California state Legislature has been approached. They may not see it as just a neighborhood especially since this could not happen in any other neighborhood in our city.
Scores of residents have complained about the loss of all those almost 100 houses. So then the TTD started calling it another name: an affordable housing project. It turns out that there is not enough funding for that element from the federal dollars they seek. And there is very little or almost no interest from contractors who would rather build Chateau-like projects or McMansions that have profit connected to them. Unfortunately, affordable housing is not affordable for those seeking to build it.
While the TTD proclaims possibilities, not one single company or contractor has stepped up to commit because no subsidies exist. Simply buying out homes and renters with vouchers or moving the families with up to 100 school children into places in Nevada will not replace the lost housing. Neither will buying homes on the California side and dedicating them. The loss of 100 will still be there. If the kids move into Nevada it will be a financial blow to LTUSD.
Building a project in California might only replace what will be lost and deter us from finding actual additional housing that we so desperately need. It is a zero sum game played out upon our poorest residents.
Another argument was that the bypass would relieve traffic congestion. However, the Chateau project has made that an impossible claim to support. Caltrans couldn’t make the numbers work. So now yet another name. It is now called a revitalization project. However, given that Nevada has a convention center waiting at the end of the bypass, this is problematic.
It now becomes a Douglas County revitalization project. For example, when visitors use their GPS they will be directed to take Pioneer Trail to a bypass road that effectively will reduce a large amount of traffic that will most likely move the cars/customers on U.S. 50 over to a long line at the junction with Pioneer Trail.
It won’t reduce traffic jams but rather move them. One has only to drive through downtown Carson City to see the empty stores and businesses for sale to envision our fate. Or they can drive down Highway 99 past the towns that were bypassed. All have suffered the same result.
The businesses being threatened do no not see it as revitalization. We have gone in person to those merchants and restaurants. They tell us that they are scared and not in favor.
The ones in the former Crescent V have indicated that they have been advised to stay out of the issue. They express concerns about what they have been told will be four years of traffic detours and road reconfigurations. They fear that they will not survive. They see that some property owners may have been promised first selection for relocation in order to stop them from being vocal. They also don’t understand how diverting traffic around behind them before the cars even reach them can mean revitalization for them. That is especially true since not one single parking spot will be created.
Where will the revitalization come from if all our parking is already full?
The rest of us see a compilation of road projects that could truly ruin South Lake Tahoe’s reputation for many years to come. To name a few: the ongoing U.S. 50 project through town; Echo Summit bridge replacement; the roundabout in Meyers; the Ski Run project; and the bypass project.
All of these may be happening at once. Even if we are wrong by one or two projects, it will still be more delays during summer than we have ever had.
And what will that do to the already poor bus system as riders have to wait in the same traffic in their attempt to get people to their destinations, such as work, on time? How will that congestion make for a good experience for any mode of transportation?
It is a result of the foregoing concerns and for the returning of a better relationship with 60 percent of your constituents that we ask you to allow the people who voted for you to also be given a vote on this project. Please direct your attorneys to find ways to support your citizens’ initiative against the outside Sacramento law firm and their mysteriously funded lawsuit that is keeping you from being in concert with the majority of your constituents.