Time to upgrade transport system
March 24, 2006
On July 19, 1997, at the Tahoe Summit (UNR) the US Secretary of Transportation said: “We (The U.S. government, DOT, DOE, FTA) will assist and make happen a clean transportation system, capable of hauling passengers and freight.” An electric railway, of course. Vice President Al Gore said much the same thing at the shores of Lake Tahoe the day before.
Tahoe’s electric railway begins at San Francisco Bay, tunnels into South Lake Tahoe at the foot of Meyers Grade. With stops along the way, it will terminate at two waterborne connections, one near Camp Richardson, another near Ski Run/Stateline. At North Shore/Tahoe City another Railway, on an historic footprint, connects to Truckee and the Reno airport – this on a 1995 Caltrans study.
Within the decade, the United States will be in a fiscal crisis, brought on by the fact we did not put in place an alternative energy infrastructure during this “warning period.” Additionally, the baby boomers will be retiring. Now, this is the appointed time for Lake Tahoe to do what “1,000 Planners” did not do in the 1970’s; do what “Renaissance 90” failed to do in the 90’s – actually do something about “a clean transportation system” to serve Lake Tahoe access and circulation.
Traffic circles do not meter traffic; At the south “Y,” this quaint amenity will merely dump cars to the next stoplight … faster! Wow. Circles at every intersection? So, are we back to 1970’s traffic jams at parking lots? Come on – consultants?
Hint: The Capital Corridor rail service is stymied by freight traffic congestion on the Donner Summit Rail Line. It is now appropriate to bring on the 50 corridor rail project, day passenger, night freight relief for the Donner Line, thus providing two high-capacity rail links to Tahoe, where only third-world class service now exists. The 50 TranSierra line junctions at Twin Bridges: Five-mile tunnel to Tahoe, 18-mile to west edge Carson Valley/Reno. No through freight trains enter the Tahoe Basin.
There must be sustainable local generated lodging income to maintain BMPs, sidewalks and streetlights. That’s an economic reality. Use income from the Emerald Bay/89 toll road, from Camp Rich vicinity to Meeks Bay, call it Tahoe’s “Scenic Drive” – $5 per car. Put an open view shed/slide deflector at the avalanche zone.
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Tahoe railways must be at hand when gas rationing or outright disruptions of motor fuel occur, to fill the rooms year-round. This is what we must do, and the sooner we get started the better chance we have of achieving a sustainable economy at Lake Tahoe. One is curious as to which consultancy, agency or politician or business leader … or when citizens will come to grips with the true and dire ramifications of peaking oil and demand action? How much input must stack up before Tahoe gets down to business with transportation engineering? Another round of meetings, well-intentioned citizens and cheerful consultants – 30-plus years and counting, folks.
We have a long list of TRPA executive directors who have privately admitted the need for a world-class electric-powered system of visitor access, with intermodal across-platform convenience: rail/water/aviation/bus, you name the mode. Since 1972 TRPA executives (and elected officials) have heard the Honorable Dr. Lewis Goldman politely and firmly suggest electric railways must be part of the Tahoe solution set. Lake Tahoe needs and must have leaders that can move beyond the study groups. Is John Singlaub the right man at the right time? Is Norma Santiago the woman with the right stuff to bring U.S. Senators in Nevada and California aboard a Tahoe renewable electric railway express? Oh, City Council … Hello?
– Gunnar Henrioulle is a South Lake Tahoe resident and alternative transportation advocate. Visit his Web site at http://www.tahoevalleylines.org.
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